On Monday, December 19, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is expected to announce whether it intends to license its patents on three lifesaving HIV/AIDS drugs to the Medicines Patent Pool, a mechanism designed to lower prices of HIV medicines and increase access to them for people in the developing world.
Over the past two years, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been urging Johnson & Johnson to take this critical step.
Johnson & Johnson has so far refused to join discussions on licensing these patents to the Medicines Patent Pool. The Pool has been set up to increase access to more affordable versions of HIV drugs, including fixed-dose combinations that include multiple medicines in one pill, and to develop much-needed pediatric HIV drugs.
The Pool would license patents on HIV drugs to other manufacturers and the resulting competition would dramatically reduce prices, making them much more affordable in the developing world. However, since the Pool is voluntary it will only work if patent holders like Johnson & Johnson choose to participate.
ACT NOW: Call on Johnson & Johnson to finally join the Medicines Patent Pool
As you are aware, the Medicines Patent Pool has started negotiations with companies and has already received widespread support from governments and international organizations. It has received licenses from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) for several patents relating to J&J's HIV/AIDS medicine darunavir.
J&J has the opportunity to voluntarily make a valuable contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS by providing its patents on rilpivirine, darunavir, and etravirine to the Medicines Patent Pool.
Rilpivirine is a promising potential ARV in a first-line treatment regimen. The product is likely to have important benefits, combined as a once-daily treatment, inexpensive to manufacture and potentially safe for use in pregnant women.
Darunavir and etravirine are both important drugs for treatment-experienced patients and have been listed in the World Health Organization treatment guidelines as potential components of a salvage regimen.
By putting the patents for these three important medicines, as well as any ARVs currently under development into the Medicines Patent Pool, J&J would contribute to saving the lives of patients across the developing world.