9 February 2011
Tibotec, owned by Johnson & Johnson, has agreed to licence rilpivirine, a promising new AIDS medicine, to three generic manufacturers, however geographic limitations will keep the medicine out of the hands of many patients across the developing world.
Aspen (South Africa), Hetero (India) and Matrix (India) have received licences from Tibotec to produce rilviripine. But the benefits will not be felt in Latin America, Central Asia and most Caribbean and South East Asian countries as they are ineligible to receive generic versions of the medicine under Tibotec’s agreement.
“While it’s encouraging to see Tibotec is thinking about access to this drug for patients in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s very unfortunate that the company has chosen to be restrictive and discriminatory by issuing licenses that look more like a franchise than actual generic competition,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
MSF has written to the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and other companies that produce AIDS medicines, asking them to put their patents in to the newly-established Medicines Patent Pool. The Patent Pool mechanism would allow generic manufacturers to produce more affordable versions and fixed-dose combinations that combine two or more medicines into one pill.
“It is easy to make voluntary licenses work for commercial interests - the challenge is making them work for both commercial and public health needs so we can tackle the AIDS epidemic,” said von Schoen-Angerer. “We urge Johnson & Johnson to establish better license conditions and include its patents in the Patent Pool.”
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