Thursday, October 11, 2012

Indonesia overrides all patents for HIV drugs

Indonesia has made a ground breaking step that will help improve access to cheap drugs for people with HIV. The Indonesian government has voided all patents for ARV drugs that people with HIV need to prolong their lives. This will allow companies to make generic forms of the drug that can be available at a low cost. Activists hope that other countries will follow suit to further expand access to the drugs.

From the Guardian, reporter Sarah Boseley details this at her Global Health blog.
The "government use" order was made on 3 September, but with no fanfare and, as yet, no public outcry from the pharmaceutical giants which, in the past, used to defend their patents volubly and aggressively – through the courts as well as diplomatic back-channels. Times have changed somewhat, with much greater public awareness of the toll of treatable diseases and the high price of medicines in developing countries. The biggest fights now are in India, where Big Pharma is battling to preserve its patents, arguing that India's thriving generic companies will sell not just to the poor but to the whole world.
But what has happened in Indonesia is remarkable for its scale. It appears that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to license the entire slate of medicines its population needs against HIV. It already had an order from 2007 for three older HIV drugs (efavirenz, lamivudine and nevirapine), but the new decree states specifically that this is "no longer sufficient".
The drug patents belong to Merck, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, Abbott and Gilead. The drugs include Glaxo's Abacavir and Abbott's Kaletra, which are both useful combinations, as well as Gilead's tenofovir (Viread), which treats hepatitis B as well as being the mainstay of the new prevention treatment for people whose partners are HIV positive. The order says the companies will receive a 0.5% royalty.

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