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Unitaids Pool for HIV/AIDS Pharmaceutical Patents Appears Flawed


Recently the International Policy Network (IPN), a nongovernmental educational organization focused on highlighting the role of free society institutions in social and economic development, released a report discussing Unitaid’s proposed pharmaceutical patent pool. Written by Alec van Gelder and Philip Stevens, this report examines the implications of creating a pharmaceutical patent pool for anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs) in order to improve treatments for HIV/AIDs.

The report examines the potential problems associated with this move, which would allow researchers to experiment on patented ARVs in order to create more effective “fixed dose combination” drugs (FDC) for subpopulations in Africa. Unitaid would distribute these new drugs on a non-profit basis, where royalties as determined by patent pool administrators would be paid to patent holders. The authors of the article point to several issues that could arise with this type of patent pool, including:

• Distribution barriers in Africa, where poor healthcare infrastructure and a shortage of trained personnel exists. These barriers could hinder the new medications from reaching those that really need it.
• Uncertain need for a patent pool type of arrangement, when many companies already allow researchers to investigate patented material. The authors write, “Many companies have established programmes which give academic researchers free access to vast proprietary compound libraries.”
• Unclear incentive for patent holders to give up intellectual property rights to drugs, knowing that the royalties they could receive would be significantly less than what they are receiving now from the patent.

Stevens and van Gelder conclude that this type of patent pool needs a better focus before they would be able to garner support for it within the industry. If the patent pool was to become compulsory, “R&D, licensing production to existing and new FDCs along with access to medicines would be undermined and potentially crowded out of the marketplace altogether by an unwieldy and unworkable bureaucracy.” They add that this would be counter-productive to Unitaid’s efforts, and could slow access to medicines in the countries that most need them.

To learn more about Unitaid’s pool for pharmaceutical patents read the full article here:

About Global Health Progress
Global Health Progress is an initiative that seeks to bring research-based biopharmaceutical companies and global health leaders together to improve health in the developing world. In addition to serving as a convening point for the industry on global health topics, the initiative engages with global health organizations; lends advocacy support to shared goals; identifies best practices for programs that address health needs, and facilitates partnership and research and development efforts to fight neglected diseases in the developing world.



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