Calls for pharma to follow GSK and make drugs more accessible

Poor countries will soon be able to make their own versions of GlaxoSmithKline’s drugs without paying royalties, the UK-based pharma giant has announced.

Building on concessions announced in 2009, GSK has now said it will not file patents for its drugs in countries deemed to be low income and least developed. In lower middle income countries, it will offer 10‑year licences on generous terms to firms seeking to make generic copies of its drugs. Around 85 countries could potentially benefit, covering 2 billion of the world’s 7.4 billion people.

GSK will also explore putting its experimental anti-cancer drugs into a UN-backed “patent pool” so that they can be made available cheaply to certain countries if and when they are approved. This will become increasingly important as life expectancy, and therefore the prevalence of cancer, rises around the world.

Knowledge Ecology International, an NGO in Washington DC, described the move as welcome and impressive. It urged others to follow GSK’s lead, especially with regard to cancer drugs.

“Companies, such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer, Astellas and BMS, with important oncology drugs should begin to engage on expanding access to their patented medicines,” it said.

Of five major multinationals contacted by New Scientist, only Pfizer responded. “We are committed to providing broad access to our medicines through a variety of ways including partnerships, flexible access arrangements, and in certain less developed countries, donations,” a spokesperson said.

-More at Newscientist

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