- Viiv Healthcare, a company that specializes in HIV medications, has broadened access to its HIV drug Tivicay, extending its licensing agreement through the Medicines Patent Pool to cover all lower middle income countries.
- The company, a joint venture between GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Shionogi, already offered royalty-free voluntary licenses for the drug to all least-developed, all low-income and all sub-Saharan African countries. It will now extend the license agreement to all lower middle income countries, in return for a small royalty in some of those countries.
- Based on the latest agreement, more than 94% of all adults with HIV in the developing world will have access to generic versions of dolutegravir and dolutegravir-containing fixed-dose combinations, according to ViiV.
- This extension follows up on a pledge GSK made in late Marchto not seek patent protection for its drugs in low-income countries.
ViiV noted this extension will have a particular impact in Armenia, Moldova, Morocco, and Ukraine - four countries which the company already has a registered patent for Tivicay. Under the new license, these countries could now have access to generic versions of the drug.
In a statement from the company, Sir Andrew Witty, Chief Executive Officer, GSK said: “[This step] builds on the recent changes GSK has made to adopt a graduated approach to IP linked to a country’s wealth. IP protection remains vital to provide the necessary incentives for investment in research to create new treatments, such as dolutegravir. However, we believe that the global healthcare challenges we all face require us to be flexible in our approach, where appropriate."
Viiv Healthcare has a positive reputation among patient groups. For the last five years, UK-based PatientView has fielded an annual survey to patient groups across the world, and for the last three years, Viiv has topped the list based on corporate reputation among patients. Last year, Viiv funded numerous patient-based initiatives designed to support communities affected by HIV.
The Medicines Patent Pool allows for the generic manufacturing of drugs that are included in various licensing agreements. The licenses are either royalty free or tiered, depending on the economic status of the country.
GSK has committed to offer generic licenses of patented medicines in most lower middle income countries and pledged to not seek patents in low income countries. However, this may to some degree only be memorializing the de facto reality on the ground, as in many low income countries most pharmaceutical companies don't seek patents on their drugs.
However GSK's commitments go further than many other pharmaceutical companies and it has also promised to begin including oncology treatments in licenses offered through patent pooling.