According to a story in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Aids is set to release its report this week detailing the need for pharmaceutical companies to pool their patents on HIV medicines to counter the “treatment timebomb”.
The parliamentary group’s report is said to indicate that by 2030, 50 million people will need new HIV drugs, which are currently too expensive, to keep them alive. The report also highlights that only a third of those in need of medicines are receiving treatment, but going forward there is a need to ensure access to the next generation of drugs. By suggesting companies holding patents on HIV drugs pool them for the international drug purchasing facility Unitaid – generic companies will be able to make lower cost versions and new combinations in a single pill of the new generation of treatments.
It will be interesting to see whether GSK and others who have agreed to pool patents on some neglected diseases, but not HIV drugs, for least developed countries will make a u-turn?
Will Abbott Laboratories and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS)/Novartis be willing to pool their respective patents on the second line drugs ritonavir and atazanavir to allow for a fixed-dose combination of the two – which according to reports here and here, is believed to be considerably cheaper to produce and has similar antiviral efficacy to Abbott’s ritonavir/lopinavir (Kaletra) combination. To do so would mean Abbott losing market share and profits from Kaletra – something that Abbott has aggressively avoided by hiking up the price of ritonavir by 400% to avoid competition from other companies protease inhibitor compounds, notably atazanavir (see Wall Street Journal report).