Web Date: February 19, 2009
GSK Outlines Aid For Poor Countries
GlaxoSmithKline plans to cut drug prices in the world's poorest countries and invest 20% of its profits from sales in those countries in infrastructure development, said CEO Andrew Witty in a Feb. 13 speech at Harvard Medical School. He also proposed that drug companies and other research organizations establish an intellectual property (IP) pool for patents related to neglected tropical diseases.
GSK, Witty said, has agreed to reduce prices for patented drugs in the 50 poorest countries to a level no higher than 25% of the price in the developed world, provided that GSK, the world's second largest drug company, can cover the cost of production.
The CEO also proposed a least developed country (LDC) patent pool in which it would put patents for processes and relevant small-molecule compounds useful in research on neglected tropical diseases. "The pool would be voluntary so as to encourage others to participate," he said, "and any benefit from the pool must go in full and solely to the LDCs."
According to a GSK spokeswoman, the company would contribute IP pertaining to malaria, tuberculosis, and other ailments listed by FDA as neglected tropical diseases. GSK would exclude IP related to HIV medications and vaccines. "We are focusing on areas where we believe there is a need to spur innovation," she says. She adds that GSK offers HIV/AIDS medications at not-for-profit prices in underdeveloped countries.
Michelle Childs, director of policy and advocacy at the Geneva-based humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, welcomes Witty's proposal for an IP pool but calls for more specific information. "The terms of any licenses attached to the patent pool will be critical, and more detail is needed," Childs says. Funding also needs to be identified to turn the IP into drugs, she adds.
Childs also challenges GSK's decision to exclude HIV/AIDS-related IP from the pool. "The gap between what is needed and what is available is large," she says about HIV treatment. "A patent pool can help address that gap and encourage innovation in areas where it's not happening today."
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