6 January 2011
On 30 December 2010, the Indian Patent Office decided that the AIDS combination medicine lopinavir/ritonavir does not merit a patent. The decision marks a major victory for public health, and keeps the door open for generic production of the drug, that health providers such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) rely on to treat patients across the developing world.
Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) is a boosted protease inhibitor and is primarily used for people on second-line AIDS therapy, when patients have become resistant to their first combination of medicines. It is also used in certain instances as first-line therapy for infants born with HIV.
The US drug company Abbott Laboratories, which markets the medicine under the brand names Kaletra or Aluvia, applied for a patent on the combination LPV/r in India which was opposed by civil society organisations in 2006. The same year, MSF led a campaign to access LPV/r in the face of Abbott’s refusal to market or provide discounted prices on an improved version of the medicine in many developing countries.
This latest decision by the Mumbai Patent Office means that generic manufacturers can continue to produce affordable versions of LPV/r and export them to countries where Abbott has no patent or where local patent barriers have been overcome.
“This is a great victory for access to medicines,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. “Many patients rely on LPV/r as a frontline drug to keep them alive, and the drug will increasingly be important in the future, as more and more people on AIDS treatment need to shift to second-line medicines. But the company has filed other patent applications, so the fight for affordable sources of this drug is by no means over.”
Regularly updated news feed of updates to the online version of Untangling the Web as well as related news articles.