Today, we congratulate the biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and the voluntary-patent-licensing organization the Medicines Patent Pool on their newly-announced agreement to increase access to the critical HIV treatment, atazanavir, in developing countries.
The announcement continues a steady drumbeat of positive steps by Gilead Sciences, ViiV Healthcare (a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Shionogi), and Roche to partner with the Medicines Patent Pool to lower the price of HIV medicines for use in developing nations. The Medicines Patent Pool is a UN-backed initiative that negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to come to voluntary licensing agreements that speed the production of affordable generic medicines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) became the first patent holder to share patents with the Medicines Patent pool in 2010.
Atazanavir is an important HIV treatment recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use as patients develop resistance to first-line regimens. The WHO estimates there will be more than 1 million people on second-line treatment by 2016, and many more will need access to second-line medicines. The Medicine Patent Pool’s agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb will make atazanavir more affordable in 110 developing countries, where nearly 90% of people living with HIV reside.
The United States leads the world in funding HIV treatment in developing countries, helping not only to keep people alive and able to take care of their families, but also to reduce new infections and contribute to economic growth. By decreasing the cost of atazanavir and other HIV medicines, the Medicines Patent Pool is helping to ensure that the funds committed to create an AIDS-free generation are used as effectively as possible.
Just last week, in his remarks on World AIDS Day, President Obama reiterated his commitment to help people around the world with HIV get access to the treatments they need:
The United States of America will remain the global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We will stand with our partners every step of this journey until we reach the day that we know is possible, when all men and women can protect themselves from infection; a day when all people with HIV have access to the treatments that extend their lives; the day when there are no babies being born with HIV or AIDS, and when we achieve, at long last, what was once hard to imagine -- and that’s an AIDS-free generation.
President Obama has joined other G8 leaders in supporting the Medicines Patent Pool and his Administration is committed to the shared vision of an AIDS-free generation—a goal that no single government, foundation, or corporation can achieve working alone.
The Medicines Patent Pool and Bristol-Myers Squibb have taken an important step in this effort and we look forward to celebrating future milestones as additional companies explore partnerships with the Medicines Patent Pool.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP
Robynn Sturm Steffen is Assistant Director for Global Development at OSTP