MSF: Prices On Latest ARV Drugs Under Patent Too High

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By Brittany Ngo for Intellectual Property Watch

The price of first- and second-line anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have declined due to increased generic competition, while third-line regimens remain “exorbitantly priced,” according to the latest edition of a publication from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The 16th edition of Untangling the Web of Antiretroviral Price Reductions – MSF’s report on HIV treatment price and access issues – was launched today at the International AIDS Society conference in Kuala Lumpur.

In the report, MSF finds that patents remain a barrier on newer drugs and in middle-income countries, but some countries are using World Trade Organization-sanctioned flexibilities to issue compulsory licences to increase access to the medicines. Flexibilities are built in to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

MSF proposed patent opposition (when applications do not meet a country’s patentability requirements) and the issue of compulsory licences in the interest of public health, as ways to bring prices down further, especially for newer drugs.

MSF reports that the ‘best possible’ price of a WHO-recommended one-pill-a-day first-line combination (tenofovir/lamivudine/efavirenz) has fallen 19 per cent since last year (from $US 172 to $US 139 per person per year). However, for newer HIV medicines, including integrase inhibitors, generic competition is mostly blocked because of patents, and these drugs are more expensive as a result.

Additionally, MSF claims that free trade agreements under negotiation are posing a greater threat to access, pointing to the European Union-India Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as two very concerning negotiations with “harmful provisions”.

The full version of Untangling the Web can be found here [pdf].

Brittany Ngo is currently completing her Master’s in Health Policy and Global Health at the Yale School of Public Health and previously obtained a Bachelor’s of Arts in Economics from Georgetown University. Through her studies she has developed an interest in health-related intellectual property issues. She is a summer intern at Intellectual Property Watch.

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