Friday 20 February 2009

Darren Olivier

GSK radical shift on IP policy for developing countries

Andrew Witty, (GlaxoSmithKline chief executive) has said this week that GSK will:

• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-income countries such as Brazil and India.
• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a "patent pool", so they can be explored by other researchers.
• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.
• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.

The full article in the The Guardian highlighting the radical move (especially the concept of patent pooling by big pharma) can be located here. Further critical review can be located here.

This obviously appears to be exceptionally good news for most countries in Africa. It is also not the first time an apparent softening on IP by big pharma has been reported this year (see post here.) One agrees that it would have been very welcome to have seen HIV research included in the patent pool and it will be very interesting to hear feedback on the effectiveness of this move over the coming years. So often we hear reports that there are numerous factors contributing to the "access to drugs" problem that even radical measures such as these do not necessarily mean that the man on the street actually receives the drugs he needs. Furthermore, the problem and danger of counterfeit drugs in Africa still requires much attention. Afro-IP also expects that the very large price differentials between developed and developing countries as a consequence of this action will place pressure on grey goods legislation and policies of developed countries. One also wonders how generics will react to protect their market share....oh and by the way, where is the CIPLA judgment promised by that SA judge last week?

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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9 March 2009 at 18:00 delete

The author has commented that "Furthermore, the problem and danger of counterfeit drugs in Africa still requires much attention" but does not make it clear whose "much attention" is required. GSK and many of the other major pharma companies are all very active in Africa in relation to anti counterfeiting both in terms of enforcement and also in relation to training of authorities and lobbying governments.