Health GAP Statement on BMS Patent Pool Licenses for ATV Access

Contact:            Brook Baker: +1 617 259 0760 *
Paul Davis: +1 215 833 4102 *
Medicines Patent Pool agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb expands access to critical second-line AIDS medicine, even while BMS excludes some middle-income countries. More companies should join the Pool and offer expanded geographic coverage.

Health GAP applauds the announcement of a new licensing agreement negotiated by the Medicines Patent Pool with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) for a key second-line protease inhibitor, atazanavir (ATV). Although the official territory is comprised of 110 low- and middle-income countries, a key clause allows generic licensees to sell without obstacles in another 34 countries where no ATV patent is in force. In addition, generic licensees will be able to supply countries that issue compulsory licenses. The new agreement effectively extends coverage to many more people with HIV than the prior 49-country deal BMS had previously confidentially negotiated with three generic licensees.

The scope of the license covers nearly 90% of people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, but the remaining 10%, who live in middle-income countries, are still not covered. Some of the excluded 10% are left without coverage because they fall under a separate bilateral agreement made between BMS and the Brazilian Government. People living with HIV need 100% coverage and thus urge the MPP, BMS, and other MPP licensors like Gilead to expand geographic coverage.

“Companies with existing MPP agreements should commit to expanding coverage,” said Professor Brook Baker, Senior Policy Analyst for Health GAP. “But it is also essential that other companies with critical new medications enter into open-access licenses with the Pool and ensure coverage for all low- and middle-income countries. This is particularly urgent for ViiV, whose majority shareholder, GlaxoSmithKline is demanding extremely narrow coverage for dolutegravir. Abbvie should open access to lopinavir and ritonavir separately so that ritonavir can be used as a booster with ATV and other protease inhibitors. Also, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, the last two hold-outs, must speedily license their HIV drugs,” said Baker.

“Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation requires expanding access to better ARV treatment regimens, and that depends on a critical mass of companies joining the Medicine Patent Pool with overlapping territories. There is urgency with respect to existing WHO-recommended regimens, but we also demand rapid access to critical new, improved ARVs like dolutegravir and tenofovir pro-drug," said Paul Davis of Health GAP.

“People with HIV in low- and middle-income countries have a right to expedited access to the latest treatments that are more effective, longer lasting, and have fewer side effects. Many of the ground-breaking new medications will be much, much cheaper to produce because they contain simpler molecular structures and lower amounts of active ingredients,” said Health GAP’s Maureen Milanga in Nairobi. “We need GSK and Merck to speed up talks with the Patent Pool for game-changing new products like TAF and DTG.”

“Governments that aren't included in MPP licenses should issue compulsory licenses and use all other public health flexibilities that are part of the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement,” stated Health GAP’s Asia Russell. “Such options will have a much more positive impact on affordability and access than industry-oriented proposals such as tiered-pricing initiatives.”

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