UNAIDS welcomes the efforts of UNITAID towards the creation of a patent pool entity

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UNAIDS welcomes the efforts of UNITAID towards the creation of a patent pool entity

10 June 2010

UNITAID

UNAIDS welcomes the efforts of UNITAID towards the establishment of the Patent Pool Foundation, scheduled for July this year. On 8 June 2010 the UNITAID Board made the final decision to move forward with the new Medicines Patent Pool Foundation and to provide US$ 4.4 million for its first year of operations.

"What this means in practical terms," said Mr Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chair of the UNITAID Executive Board, "is that formal negotiations with the patent holders can now begin. We expect the Patent Pool Foundation to have its first licenses within a year."

Access to HIV treatment is a key issue of universal access, and if a patent pool is successful in obtaining licenses for AIDS drugs it will contribute towards lowering the price of drugs and promote the production of fixed drug combinations as well as encourage generic manufacturers to produce WHO prequalified antiretroviral (ARV) drugs including pediatric ARVs.

“A successful patent pool will help in accelerating the scaling up access to care and treatment and will decrease the risk of stock out of medicines in the developing world,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS executive director.

Why a patent pool?

A patent pool brings together the patent rights held by different owners such as universities, pharmaceutical companies or government institutions, and makes them available on a non-exclusive basis. Through this mechanism, developers of pharmaceutical products could access a “one-stop-shop” for patents. In return producers pay a royalty to the patent holder.

Such a pool could make it easier to produce new medicines that combine several pharmaceutical compounds patented by different companies into a single pill. These medicines, known as “fixed-dose combinations” are easier for children and adults to take than multiple tablets with different schedules, promoting HIV treatment compliance and boosting treatment outcomes.

The patent pool could also make newer medicines more affordable in developing countries, through opening up manufacture to different producers. While some older medicines for the treatment of AIDS have become increasingly affordable, newer products are still very expensive. The need for affordable HIV treatment will become more urgent as increasing numbers of people living with HIV fail their first-line therapy and need second-line treatments.