GlaxoSmithKline to stop seeking patents in world's poorest countries

One of the big celebrations behind the announcement from GSK is that there will be a large increase number of affordable cancer medications available, which have traditionally been less accessible than HIV and hepatitis treatments, where a number of affordable generics are already on the market.

Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally relied on patents in order to secure a monopoly on the drugs they develop, allowing them to set their own price.

Many are hoping that following GSK’s announcement that they would relax this policy, similar companies will be pressured to follow suit.

“Hopefully by showing this kind of activity can happen, and that it supports public health, it will encourage other companies to also take responsibility for this sort of clarity,” Danny Edwards, a policy researcher at the Access to Medicine Foundation, told RFI.

Sir Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive Officer of GSK, says he hopes the African continent will benefit most from this move.

Other analysts are more skeptical realistic impact. Rohit Malpani, the policy director for the Access Campaign at Doctors Without Borders, notes that under a World Trade Organisation agreement, the world’s 48 poorest countries have already been exempt from patent protections until 2033.

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In addition, Malpani noted that three quarters of the world’s poorest live in lower to upper middle income countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, India and China. It remains unclear how much these countries will be able to benefit from the new policy.

A number of lower to upper middle income countries are also members of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations, which have some of the largest drug manufacturing facilities.

“One of the main concerns we have from the announcement is that GSK indicated that it would continue to seek patent protection from G20 countries,” Malpani told RFI.

GSK said it will offer licences to generic drug makers in lower to upper middle income countries for 10 years, in return for a small royalty.

Dr. Raymond Hill, President of the British Pharmacological Society and visiting professor at Imperial College in London told RFI he feels the move from GSK is “overall a good thing,” but, only one part of a solution larger problem of lack of infrastructure in the world’s poorest nations.

“If you have potent new drugs that’s good, but they can only be used safely and effectively if you have the physicians who are trained to use them and you have the medical infrastructure in place to use them,” Hill told RFI.

Source: rfi afrique