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Press Release: New Drug License to Help Meet Growing HIV Treatment Needs

16. December 2013

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) today welcomes the agreement announced on 12 December between Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that will extend generic manufacture and distribution of atazanavir (ATV), a preferred second-line treatment for adults living with HIV and also used for children over the age of six.


    “This new agreement between the MPP and BMS on ATV is a breakthrough. It will enable generic competition for atazanavir, effectively increasing its availability and affordability for the growing number of people who need second-line treatment,” said David Deakin, Chair of the EAA’s working group on access to treatment and Head of HIV at Tearfund, UK. 


    Anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs) are essential in managing HIV infection, and many of the first ARVs developed over 20 years ago can now be manufactured generically at a lower cost. However, individuals on treatment develop resistance to the drugs over time, meaning they need to move to more recent second-, and even third-line medications that remain prohibitively expensive in resource-poor settings. This makes it all the more important for pharmaceutical companies to place essential drugs in the MPP.


    “By making it possible for ATV to now be sold at lower cost in at least 110 low- and middle-income countries that are home to almost 90% of all people living with HIV, this license is a crucial next step in our combined global efforts to make second line ARV treatment available at cheaper prices,” states Astrid Berner-Rodoreda, advisor on HIV and AIDS for Brot für die Welt and member of the EAA working group. “However we remain concerned that people living with HIV in the middle-income countries– such as Argentina, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Ukraine – are not covered by this new agreement and thus are in danger of falling between the gaps, and call upon all stakeholders to take urgent action to address this issue.”


    Building on the precedence of previous MPP license agreements, this new license meets many of the ‘model’ criteria called for by access to treatment advocates. “We applaud the flexibility that this license gives the Pool for manufacturing and sub-licensing as well as the transparency of this agreement,” notes Msgr. Robert Vitillo, special advisor on HIV and AIDS, Caritas Internationalis, and member of the EAA’s working group.


    Since the MPP Foundation was formally established in 2010, it has concluded agreements with five companies, notably Gilead, ViiV Healthcare, Roche, and now BMS.


    “Members of the EAA continue to be convinced that the MPP is a viable solution to deliver sustainably priced treatment – for both new fixed dose combinations and pediatric formulations,” reiterated David Deakin. “We therefore urge other companies to follow the example that BMS has set as soon as possible. In particular, we call on those currently in negotiations with the MPP, such as ViiV for dolutegravir and AbbVie for pediatrics, to speedily conclude their agreements, and those who are have not yet entered into negotiations, such as Johnson and Johnson, and Merck, to do so as soon as possible.”


    The MPP negotiates with patent holders to share their HIV medicine patents with the Pool, and then licenses generic manufacturers to facilitate the production of affordable generic medicines well-adapted for use in resource-poor settings. UNAIDS estimates that there are 35.3 million people living with HIV, with 28.6 million now eligible for antiretroviral therapy.


    For more information: contact Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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