WAD: Put your HIV drug patents in the pool

The ‘Make It Happen’ campaign is calling on pharmaceutical companies to put their HIV drug patents in the UNITAID patent pool. The pool could mean that people in developing countries can get the life-saving antiretroviral medicines they need.

On World AIDS Day, we are asking nine drug companies to listen to the millions without access to adequate AIDS treatment. We’ll be turning up the volume: PUT YOUR HIV DRUG PATENTS IN THE POOL !!!!!!!!!

Since launching our campaign in September, nearly 115,000 mails have been sent to drug companies in support of the pool, calling on them to: MAKE IT HAPPEN.

And we are making it happen
All drug companies are now in discussion with UNITAID about the creation of the patent pool – largely because of our campaign. So thanks to you for your support.

All bar one of the nine drug companies have contacted MSF directly in response to the campaign. All of them have said that they are interested in discussing the pool with UNITAID. A number have been very positive:

"We believe if structured appropriately, Unitaid's patent pool can play a critical role in expanding access to antiretroviral treatment for patients around the world by encouraging the development of new fixed-dose combinations and paediatric formulations, lowering prices, while respecting intellectual property."
Gregg Alton, senior vice president, Gilead Sciences

But the devil is in the details and one of the key issues that has emerged is which countries should benefit from medicines made under licence from the pool.

All developing countries must be included in the pool One thing needs to be made crystal clear. A patent pool should benefit all people living with HIV in developing countries. Some drug companies want to divide countries up and exclude patients in Brazil, India, South Africa and China, for example. The majority of the population in these countries still live in poverty and need access to cheaper HIV drugs and newer drug combinations that the pool could provide. More importantly, it is precisely in these countries that the expertise and experience in producing affordable generic drugs is to be found. These countries cannot be shut out of the patent pool initiative. UNITAID’s starting point is to include all developing countries. They need to stand firm on this principle. All developing countries need to be beneficiaries of the pool.

It’s a global thing… We’ve got supporters all around the world. And apart from the online action, we’ve been getting signatures from patient groups in developing countries, from South Africa, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Make It Happen platform has also been launched in Brazil (link here.)