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  US Tells The WHO To Support A Patent Pool
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Date: 21 January 2011



A year after UNITAID approved an international patent pool to bolster access to needed HIV and AIDS meds in developing countries (read here), the US government has gotten behind the initiative and is now urging the World Health Organization to embrace the concept.

The move, which comes three months after the National Institutes of Health signed on by licensing a drug (back story), was disclosed in this statement delivered earlier this week by Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services, who was speaking to the WHOs executive board.

In his remarks, Daulaire noted that differential pricing does not always have the impact on the pricing of medicines that robust generic competition does, but the patent pool aims to enhance competition to bring down the prices in developing countriesand can also encourage needed new innovation, especially to help treat children and create fixed-dose combinations necessary to scaling up and improving HIV treatment in resource poor settings.

Certainly, US backing is a significant step for those who believe the patent pool is a needed and workable idea, especially if this move encourages the WHO to act similarly. On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry has yet to embrace the notion. In fact, a group of non-profit organizations last month sent letters to several large drugmakers in hopes of urging them to act (see this). So far, though, no announcements have been forthcoming.

The Medicines Patent Pool is designed to streamline patent licensing for producing generic versions of patented HIV treatments and lower prices for meds in countries where people are unable to afford the drugs. Drugmakers would place patents for HIV meds into a pool that could be licensed to select generic makers, which would pay inventors a small royalty and sell copycats only in certain developing countries.