January 20, 2012

Aurobindo, first major generic drugs-maker to tap into Patent Pool

Generic-drugs maker Aurobindo Pharma Ltd has signed an agreement with the global Medicines Patent Pool for the manufacture of several antiretroviral medicines – making it one of the first major generic companies to tap into the patent pool.

The agreement will enable Aurobindo to manufacture products licensed to the Pool by Gilead Sciences in July: emtricitabine (FTC), cobicistat (COBI), elvitegravir (EVG), and the fixed-dose combination of these medicines known as the Quad (a combination of FTC, COBI, EVG, and tenofovir), said a MPP note from Geneva.

The development will speed-up access to critical HIV medicines in developing countries, in particular to new medicines still in development, a note from MPP said. Their uptake by generic manufacturers will help close the gap between the arrival of new medical technology in developed country markets and its often delayed arrival in developing countries, it added.

The Medicines Patent Pool, founded with the support of UNITAID in 2010, aims to bring down the prices of HIV medicines, and stimulate the development of needed new formulations, through access-oriented voluntary licences.

Aurobindo has chosen to take advantage of a key provision negotiated by the Pool so it can sell tenofovir to a larger number of countries and without paying royalties.

“We are pleased with the rapid uptake of our first licences by generic companies,” said Medicines Patent Pool Executive Director, Ms Ellen 't Hoen. Generic medicines producers have a key role to play in ensuring the availability of low cost medicines for the treatment of HIV, she added.

“Aurobindo looks forward to increasing its manufacture of HIV-related products, and expanding its work to cover promising new treatments, for the millions of people living with HIV across the globe,” said Mr P.V. Ramaprasad Reddy, Chairman of Aurobindo.

The Pool signed its first licence agreement with a pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, in July 2011, securing several public-health related improvements on the status quo for voluntary licences.

However, the system has come in for some criticism from a group of about 70 health advocacy groups who have raised concerns on the lack of clarity around the process of determining whether a license negotiated by the MPP meets the primary purpose for which the MPP was created: to improve the health of people in low- and middle-income countries.

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