Medicines Patent Pool gets help on HIV/AIDS drug from Glaxo-Pfizer-Shionogi joint venture

The Medicines Patent Pool, a public health-business collaborative formed to help beat disease in the developing world, announced a new deal with ViiV Healthcare – a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Shionogi – to facilitate greater availability of a key pediatric HIV/AIDS medicine.

MPP estimates 3.4 million children live with HIV worldwide, but only 562,000 of them have access to medicines, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO was involved in forming MPP in 2010 with the hope of finding cheaper, simpler HIV drugs that are geared for children.

Under the collaboration, the pediatric HIV medicine abacavir will be licensed by ViiV Healthcare so that other manufacturers can produce in 118 countries, which MPP said, are home to 98.7% of children living with HIV.

“The daunting problem of treating childhood HIV can only be solved when all stakeholders work together,” Greg Perry, MPP’s executive director said in a statement. “The Medicines Patent Pool is a win-win-win solution – it provides an innovative new business model for the pharmaceutical industry to contribute to global health, it aids low-cost, quality medicines manufacturers by allowing them easier access to the market, and most importantly allows people living with HIV around the world timely access to life-saving treatments. MPP will continue working with ViiV Healthcare and other pharmaceutical companies to expand the reach of its work to treat all children and adults living with HIV in developing countries."

Glaxo, which is based in London, and Pfizer, which is based in New York, have facilities in or around Philadelphia. Shionogi is based in Osaka. The MPP is based in Geneva.

Glaxo has 76.5 percent of the joint venture, with Pfizer owning 13.5 percent and Shionogi holding 10 percent. Shionogi joined in October of 2012.

“At ViiV Healthcare we have committed to playing our part to address the gaps in care and treatment of pediatric HIV," Dominique Limet, chief executive officer of ViiV Healthcare, said in a statement. "This agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool builds on the existing 13 licenses granted to our generics partners and the broad range of initiatives supported through our Pediatric Innovation Seed Fund which aim to improve pediatric HIV research, care and treatment in resource-limited settings. The overarching goal of our efforts is to improve the lives of children living with HIV, and to help make ViiV Healthcare’s medicines available to them.”

MPP and ViiV said the groups will discuss a new AIDS drug, Dolutegravir, that is under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is thought to be better for children than existing medicine. They also agreed to talk more on extending licenses beyond the 118 countries in the deal announced this week.

Both of those points were raised by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which treats people in woebegone spots around the globe. MSF was mostly supportive of the new arrangement, but wants more.

“This license shows welcome improvements over the previous license the Patent Pool signed with a pharmaceutical company, but it is disappointing that ViiV is not including all developing countries in the agreement, given the fragile and fragmented nature of the pediatric HIV medicines market," Aziz ur Rehman, intellectual property advisor to the MSF Access Campaign, said in a statement. "While it’s encouraging to see ViiV taking steps towards greater collaboration on access to pediatric formulations, the real breakthrough we’re looking for is an agreement to make the company’s promising new drug dolutegravir available to both adults and children in all developing countries. Efforts to increase transparency in voluntary license negotiations, including making the license and its terms publicly available, are appreciated.”