Medicines Patent Pool, Roche Strike HIV-Related Medicine Pricing AgreementPublished on 5 August 2013 @ 7:43 am
By Kelly Burke for Intellectual Property Watch
The Medicines Patent Pool today announced an agreement with Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche to increase access and reduce the cost of a medicine that treats a viral infection in people with weakened immune systems, specifically for people living with HIV.
The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) is a Geneva-based non-profit organisation that negotiates voluntary licences for lower prices on HIV/AIDS medicines.
The agreement [pdf] involves a Roche drug called valganciclovir – an oral treatment for cytomegalovirus (CMV), an infection that can lead to blindness in people with HIV/AIDS. Roche agreed to provide valganciclovir at a discounted price “in an effort to scale-up the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV-related CMV” in 138 developing countries.
The discount will make valganciclovir up to 90 per cent cheaper than current prices, according to a MPP press release [pdf].
Unlike previous agreements negotiated to licence particular drugs (IPW, WHO, 26 June 2013) (IPW, WHO, 11 October 2011), the agreement with Roche is a pricing agreement that aims to make the treatment more readily available and affordable, creating an environment that would support generic competition, according to MPP.
“There is a vicious cycle with CMV: since the current treatment options are either unaffordable or inconvenient, HIV clinics rarely screen for the disease,” David Heiden, a CMV expert working with Seva and Pacific Vision Foundations, said in the MPP press release. “Because clinics rarely screen for CMV, there is little demand for treatment and therefore little demand for easier to administer, affordable solutions. As a result, preventable blindness continues to occur in people living with HIV, especially in Asia.”
Additionally, MPP and Roche have agreed to engage in licensing and technology transfer negotiations next year to expand access to generic versions of the drug.
“This agreement is really a result of the unique position of the MPP as an organisation which talks to all stakeholders in the process – pharmaceutical companies, treatment providers, treatment experts like the WHO, communities of people living with HIV, and governments – which made us well placed to identify with Roche a way we could work together to make a positive impact on access to a needed medicine for people living with HIV,” MPP Communications Manager Kaitlin Mara told Intellectual Property Watch.
In the past, MPP has received criticism for leaving key middle-income countries out of its licensing agreements (IPW, WHO, 28 June 2012). The prevalence of patients diagnosed with CMV retinitis is 14.0% (11.8-16.2%) of people living with HIV in Asia, 12.0% (4.2-19.9%) in Latin America, and 2.2% (1.3-3.1%) in Africa, according to the MPP release.
Despite CMV prevalence in Latin America, major countries in the region such as Brazil and Mexico, are missing from the new agreement with Roche. However, more countries can be negotiated into the agreement should there be unmet medical needs, Mara said.
The agreement also says that Roche will enter negotiations with MPP on the licensing of the antiretroviral saquinavir, an alternative treatment for HIV, should MPP determine there is significant medical need for it.
Kelly Burke may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.