Far removed from its controversial funding of stem cell research, the United States National Institutes of Health(NIH) has joined the HIV medicines patent pool launched by UNITAID. This means that NIH will add Patents to the patent pool that was designed to make it cheaper for people in deprived countries to have better access to essential medicines. The NIH is the first research institution to join the Patent pool, although speculation has it that a number of major drug manufacturers, including Merck, have been considering joining the drug pool. However, others such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer‘s, who have a joint HIV/AIDS venture, ViiV Healthcare have made it clear that they will pursue separate licensing agreement with generic drug makers.
The NIH holds a number of patents that relates to a class of AIDS drugs known as protease inhibitors that are used to treat drug-resistant HIV infection.
“This license underlines the U.S. government‘s commitment to the Medicines Patent Pool and its goal to increase the availability of HIV medicines in developing countries,” NIH director Francis Collins said.
“We are now discussing licensing to the Medicines Patent Pool other patents that could have a positive impact on the treatment of HIV/AIDS.”
Philippe Douste-Blazy, welcomed the move and urged other research institutions to follow suit.
Around 33.4 million people worldwide are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, and the vast majority are unable to afford life saving medication.
UNITAID’s patent pool was announced in December 2009 as a way to pave way for generic drug manufacturers to make low-cost versions of widely patented new medicines by creating a system for patent holders to license technology in exchange for reasonable royalties.