Historic decision on access to medicines: UNITAID patent pool approved to lower prices for HIV treatment

18 December, 2009 | Health and Education For All
Anti-retroviral drugs.
Anti-retroviral drugs.

It is a rare thing to be so overwhelmed by one decision.

The decision, which certainly is an historic one, was taken this week at UNITAID, the public health financing mechanism. UNITAID was established to increase access for poor people to treatments for HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Around 70% of its financial base comes from an innovative tax on airline tickets in eight of the organization's 29 member countries.

The UNITAID board decided this week to move forward in setting up a patent pool for HIV medicines. This has been in the pipeline for a while, but until now hasn’t had enough support from researchers and pharmaceutical companies to go ahead. This is great news because it will enable generic companies to produce fixed-dose combinations of HIV medicines for children and adults and thus significantly reduce the cost of medicines and also making drugs that are not there yet, available to poor people.

This decision will bring hope to the millions of people around the world who don't currently get the HIV medicines they need to stay alive. It also brings us one step closer to the day when treatment for HIV and AIDS will be universally available.

I cannot describe what an amazing move this is. I still do not believe it. Some companies are already on board, which is a great achievement. We need to push many other companies who are not yet supportive to join.

This achievement is the result of concerted work from many NGOs in the north and south, including Oxfam, over many years. So the moral of the story is that persistent collaborative hard work over a long time produces incredible results!

The voluntary initiative will ‘pool’ drug patents, allowing generic manufacturers to produce affordable versions of HIV drugs and to develop essential new fixed-dose combination and child-friendly drugs. In return the generic manufacturers pay a fair royalty payment to the originator pharmaceutical company. Worldwide only 42% of those in need of HIV treatment currently receive it; we believe that, whilst there are some details to be resolved, the pool will help to tackle this unacceptable situation.

Three potential benefits of the patent pool:

  1. More affordable medicines: By allowing different manufacturers to make needed products, the patent pool will encourage competition and bring down prices. This means that they will be available to more people.
  2. More appropriate medicines, easier to take: Treatment, especially for HIV, requires combinations of more than one medicine, which may be produced by different companies. Thus, if a company wants to develop such a combination, it has to enter into lengthy negotiations with the many patent-holders. A patent pool will enable companies to access all the patents in the 'pool' and to manufacture the new and improved treatment in return for a royalty payment.
  3. Pediatric HIV treatments: By bringing together different patents, the Pool will allow companies to work together to develop new medicines for children, which are currently badly needed.

We are hoping that by 2011, new drugs will be on their way to people.

And to top it off, members of the delegation who represent communities living with HIV on the UNITAID Executive Board, told me that because of my work and the passionate speech I made to celebrate this decision I should be part of their delegation! What an honor!

For more information on the patent pool see this great animation from the Stop AIDs Campaign.



UNITAID patent pool approved to lower prices for HIV treatment  which is very usefull and informative for those people who are suffering from HIV.

Thank You so much for your great job.



Research on Malaria

GlaxoSmithKline, Britain's largest pharmaceutical company, announced last week that they will open up their research on malaria, and their laboratory in Spain so that anyone can use their research and facilities to find vaccines for malaria and other diseases, all for free, find more details here





While this could potentially have good results GSK need to do more and get on board with the UNITAID patent pool. You can take part in Oxfam Great Britain's action asking them to do just this, here


good signs

There is some good news in the article here and the comments as well. It's great to see some of big pharma opening up to the idea that everyone can't pay the premium prices of some of these drugs. Atlas Insurance has some good options for drug coverage that would help some in the US get a chance at some of these drugs as well. It isn't just third world countries that have people that can't afford these medications.

It is interesting to note

It is interesting to note that pharmaceutical companies are becoming more compassionate in the drive against the treatment of certain diseases. We hope to hear more good news!

subsidized treatment is

subsidized treatment is compulsory for eradicating HIV aids.I think its quite a good solution for patients.There should be free medical camps for rural areas.Currently I am working for offshore company car loan modification company so I have very less time to participate in medical camping.

Great News

This is a real break through for the fight against aids in the developing world. I currently work with the Vista bay drug treatment centre so I follow this issue closely.



And to top it off, members of the delegation who represent
communities living with HIV on the UNITAID Executive Board, told me that
because of my work and the passionate speech I made to celebrate this
decision I should be part of their delegation! What an honor!