HIV medicines and patent-pooling: Making it Happen?

The Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines run by the Médecins Sans Frontières charity is currently running a "Make It Happen Campaign". According to its website,
"The cost of HIV medicines is rising all the time, meaning that many people with HIV will not be able to afford life-saving medicines. Unless……

There is a way to produce new drugs at affordable prices: Join us in pushing for the patent pool. This way drug companies share their drug patents with the pool, so they still get their royalities... but at the same time other companies, such as generic drug manufacturers and research institutions, can get hold of these patents to make cheaper drugs. Everyone wins.

Help us push for the pool: write a letter to drug companies asking them to put their drug patents in the pool. ...

Why we need a patent pool

Competition between different companies is the best way to make drugs more affordable. You can make sure competition happens by using the law to limit or overcome the barriers that stand in the way of generic competition; companies can also help build a new way to create drugs at affordable prices: by participating in the patent pool".
Supporters can click the Make it Happen link and send an email to the CEOs of Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Pfizer Inc. and Sequoia Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The IPKat, who thanks French IP practitioner Olivier Moussa for drawing the campaign to his attention, is fascinated by this exercise. It's attractively presented, highly focused, simple and designed both to stimulate public awareness and to put pressure on the pharma industry. Merpel wonders though whether it's naive or dangerous in that it takes no account of the ratio of investment-to-risk or the operation of competition policy. Both Kats wonder what readers think, both within the pharma and healthcare industries and beyond it. Please post your comments below.
HIV medicines and patent-pooling: Making it Happen? HIV medicines and patent-pooling: Making it Happen? Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, December 04, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. There may be some obstacles to this approach, but it appears to be more feasible than some alternatives that have been bandied before. If anything, this demonstrates an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the patent system by NGOs (or at least this particular, rather brainy NGO).

    I'd say that pharma companies should seriously consider this proposal, because the alternative may well be a wave of compulsory licences.

  2. The UNITAIDS patent pool will be limited to specific diseases (AIDS) and to developing countries, which will limit the impact on competition.

    The purpose is to lower transaction costs for access-based voluntary licensing for low- and medium-income populations. It will actually facilitate global price discrimination in second-line AIDS medicines, which is a good thing.


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