Monday, 3 December 2012

A review of African official IP websites: no. 21: The Gambia

Last year, this blog reported on the non-existent web presence of the Gambia intellectual property (IP) office as well as the optimism that IP matters are being considered by its government. Twelve months on, things are still the same: no web presence and further deliberation on the necessary IP policies including starting a collecting society. Given the two conditions: non-existent web presence and deliberation on IP policies, which one do you think Afro Leo would prefer to see? The latter, of course.
Access to medicine: a new approach?
On other news, this Leo has picked up this report that the pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), has decided to allow generic drug companies to manufacture and distribute one of its best selling patented drugs, PREZISTA® (darunavir) in African countries and other least-developed countries for the benefit of HIV patients. Paul Stoffels, Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, said in a statementWe are pleased to take this significant step toward bringing our  innovations to meaningfully impact the health of people living with HIV and enhance access to our medicines for those in need. As part of this commitment, we believe that an effective access strategy includes responsible intellectual property management and that intellectual property should not be a barrier to ensuring a sustainable supply of medically acceptable darunavir in the world’s poorest countries.” (Press release on 29th November; World Aids Day on 1 December; good timing, says Afro Leo).
The statement further clarifies, "Under this policy Janssen will not enforce its darunavir patent rights, provided the generic versions of darunavir produced or supplied by generic manufacturers are quality, medically acceptable, and used only in the defined territory. Manufacturers are still responsible for obtaining permissions from other darunavir patent holders and health authorities where appropriate.  Janssen will continue to ensure the availability and appropriate use of PREZISTA® in SSA and LDCs through its existing licensing agreement and partnerships."(Please be aware that nothing comes for free, says Afro Leo)
This Leo applauds this initiative by J&J and feels that perhaps, it may mitigate the company's stance not to join the patent pool. It is also quite interesting that J&J is open about the fact that IP can, in some instances, be a barrier to the access to certain essential medicines. (This is the sort of news that makes Afro Leo wonder whether there should be more focus or energy on lobbying pharmaceutical giants to change their ways - not forgetting  to ensure African countries utilise inherent flexibilities in IP laws).
What do readers think of J&J's new policy? Ultimately, does it go far enough?
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US FDA rejects but later accepts J&J's new 800mg PREZISTA® (darunavir), see here and here 
J&J recalls HIV/AIDS medicine PREZISTA® (darunavir) in 2011, see here

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