GlaxoSmithKline Urged to Pool Its Patents on HIV Drugs

September 06, 2009

Sarah Bosely
The Guardian

Leading UK and international organisations have written to Britain's largest drug company urging it to pool its patents on HIV medicines to help save millions of lives in developing countries.

A letter from 15 organisations, including the Stop Aids Campaign, Médecins Sans Frontières, Unicef and Christian Aid, calls on GlaxoSmithKline to join a patent pool being put together by Unitaid, which aims to improve access to drugs for HIV/Aids and other diseases in poor countries.

The patent pool would allow cheap copies and combinations of Aids drugs to be made without legal restraint or delays from the manufacturers, whose monopolies are protected for 20 years.

The letter follows an article in the Guardian in which Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, said that all he knew of Unitaid was what he had read in the papers.

On a trip to Katine in northern Uganda, where the Guardian sponsors a development project, Witty made clear his reservations about a patent pool for HIV drugs, although he said: "I'm not saying no to anything because nobody's actually put in front of me a really concrete proposition." He added that GSK was already doing a lot to help those with HIV in developing countries, including funding research into drugs for children, and he was willing to let generic companies make cheap copies of its HIV drugs under licence.

Click here to read the full story on the Guardian website.