Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an HIV patient in India recently filed an application to block ViiV Healthcare from receiving patents for two new important HIV drugs.
If MSF and the patient can block ViiV Healthcare, then HIV patients will still be able to receive generic productions of the drugs that are much more affordable.
MSF commonly uses generic medicines from India to treat a variety of conditions and diseases. The cost efficiency is important to the organization and to patients.
“Patents for these drugs would mean complete monopoly status for a company which has already restricted the availability of an important HIV drug in India,” Leena Menghaney, head of MSF’s Access Campaign in South Asia, said.
The patent oppositions are specifically against ViiV Healthcare, which is a joint venture from GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, for its dolutegravir drug and cabotegravir drug. Dolutegravir is the first-line HIV treatment in the U.S., first implemented as such two years ago. Cabotegravir is a new treatment that is still being developed in clinical trials.
"Many of us have now developed resistance to existing medicines and are in dire need of new drugs to stay alive,” the patient who is living with HIV and who filed the patent opposition said. “Affordable generic medicines from India have been one of the cornerstones for being able to put nearly 16 million people on HIV treatment in developing countries.”
ViiV Healthcare argues that if the patent is approved, the drugs would be more widely available than MSF and the patient realize, but the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNPP) disagrees.
“People with HIV in India have had to deal with long delays and it has taken years for new HIV drugs and monitoring tools to be introduced in the treatment program by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO),” DNPP spokesman Loon Gangte said. “Without access to dolutegravir in the private sector, people living with HIV who have developed resistance to existing HIV medicines will not be able to get effective treatment they need to stay alive. The irony is that the drug will be produced in India and exported to Africa, but won’t be available to Indian patients who need it.”