UNITAID Endorses Creation of Panel To Examine Drug Patent Issues
The drug purchasing agency UNITAID is endorsing the formation of a panel of experts to examine the viability of a "patent pool," the New York Times reports. The pool in theory would hold licenses on patented drugs, and the licenses could be used to produce the medicines at lower costs for developing countries, according to the Times. The pool initially would focus on pediatric HIV/AIDS drugs and medicines for adults who have developed resistance to first-line therapies.
The panel initially would have five experts in patent law and a budget of less than $2 million. "The panel might ask for licenses on second-generation drugs," advocate James Love said, adding, "The patent holders will either say yes or no -- but if they say no, it might raise some eyebrows." Although patents have expired on many first-line HIV/AIDS drugs, patents on many second-line and pediatric medicines still exist. According to the Times, a "tiny fraction" of people taking HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries have access to newer medicines (McNeil, New York Times, 7/8).