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Patent Pool for AIDS

The denial of life saving AIDS medicines to third world countries is a shocking and shameful practice. Patients who have full blown AIDS and live in the US, Europe or Japan have access to AIDS medicines and can live a normal life for many years with a job and caring for their families. Three million AIDS patients died last year in developing countries because they were denied life savings medicines.

Before residents of rich countries shrug their shoulders over these three million deaths, a review of the consequences should be conducted. The AIDS pandemic is very damaging and threatening to the well being of residents of the US and other rich countries. The 2004 annual UNAIDS report provides detailed information about the social, economic and political devastation the AIDS pandemic is reeking in poor countries and the fallout for rich countries.

There are twenty life saving AIDS drugs that have been invented over the last twenty years. Much of the primary research to discover these drugs was paid for by public tax dollars and donations. The drugs were later commercialized through the patent process by private drug companies.

The same taxpayers and donors that funded the original research to invent these AIDS drugs and are paying to purchase AIDS medicines while pharmaceutical companies rake in extravagant profits.

$10,000 Drugs Only Cost $ 100 to Manufacture

The cost of manufacturing AIDS drugs is $ 100 for a one year supply for a patient. The cost of buying these same drugs in the US is $ 10,000. The fallout of this monopoly pricing of AIDS drugs is that rich countries supply AIDS drugs to their patients and the poor people that live in developing country die because they have no access to these expensive drugs.

Many organzations, government agencies and philanthropists are working to provide AIDS medicine and treatment to the six million patients with full blown AIDS (of the 40 million infected with HIV). Some groups are buying generic drugs priced as low as
$ 140 while others like the US government programs are paying full market prices.

There are 40 million people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries in 2004. There were 5 million new infections of HIV and 3 million deaths in 2004. The denial of AIDS drugs to patients in developing countries is a very high death rate and hence a “controlled” population.

3rd World US
Total HIV Infections 40,000,000 1,000,000
Patients in Need of Drugs 6,000,000 400,000
Patients Receiving Drugs 700,000 400,000
Annual Deaths 3,100,000 18,000
% of Deaths 50 % 4 %

In the US 40% of the HIV/AIDS population needs AIDS medicines (and receives them). In Developing countries only 15% actually need medicines. The high death rate due to the denial of life saving medicines keeps the population that needs AIDS medicines low.

10 M Will Need Drugs in 2010

The population of patients needing AIDS drugs will grow from 6 million in 2004 to 10 million by 2010. If AIDS drugs were made available to all patients that need them globally the numbers would grow rapidly due to survival of patients that rapidly die today.

Based on the US treatment data and WHO projections a successful program that supplied AIDS medicines worldwide would required medicine to treat 20 million patients.

Treating 20 million patients at the US market price of $ 10,000 would require $ 200 Billion annually. Purchasing generic AIDS medicines at $ 140 would still cost $ 2.8 billion annually. Purchasing the medicines is only part of the cost of providing ARV treatment.

Clearly donors in rich countries will not provide $ 200 Billion or anything close to provide AIDS medicines. Continuing down the current path of purchasing AIDS drugs at market prices in rich countries will fail to ever treat patients in developing countries.

New solutions must be developed.

Patent Pool for AIDS Medicines

The Consumer Project on Technology, CPTECH, run by Jamie Love proposed in January, 2005 a patent pool for AIDS medicines to meet the challenge of providing AIDS drugs to the six million patients in need of ARV treatment in developing countries in an affordable and effective method.

The proposed Essential Patent Pool for AIDS, EPPA would dramatically reduce the cost of AIDS medicines for developing countries, expand access to all AIDS medicines, assist in the scale up for needed medicine volumes and promote innovation tailored to the health care needs of the HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries.

How the Patent Pool Works

The proposed EPPA would be an independent non-profit entity established at the behest of sponsors such as the World Health Organization. An initial list of patents needed in the pool would be developed assessing the needs of patients in developing countries. The EPPA would seek voluntary contribution of patents by the patent holders. If voluntary negotiations fail the EPPA would seek non-exclusive open compulsory licenses from appropriate World Trade Organization members. The EPPA would provide open licensing of patents in the pool to all suppliers of ARV medicines and other essential medical technologies for AIDS. Royalties would be paid by licensees for utilization of the patents, which would be remitted to the patent holders.

The increased volumes of AIDS drugs provided would increase revenues to existing patent holders.

Innovation would be enhanced because many companies would have access to use patents to develop appropriate formulations and product forms desperately needed in developing countries. Licensees of EPPA patents will agree to give back rights of any patents or technology built off the use of EPPA patents back to the Patent Pool.

Licensees of EPPA patents will obtain relevant national regulatory approval or WHO pre-qualification to ensure necessary quality of medical products is maintained to guarantee quality health care to all patients globally.

The proposed EPPA provides a rational and effective way to provide affordable AIDS drugs to millions of patients in developing countries and still preserves the existing pharmaceutical system in rich countries.

Most importantly it would end the shameful system of letting 3 million people die each year from AIDS.

Will the WHO or Someone Take Leadership?

The proposed EPPA is only one creative alternative that has been proposed to address the AIDS pandemic.

Many dedicated people are working on the AIDS Pandemic – the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, The Global Fund, myriad large foundations such as the Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, hundreds of NGO such as Doctors without Borders and activists at all levels in society. Will this army be able to defeat the pharmaceutical industry and other interests that insist on maintain the current system?

While leaders like Tony Blair, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Koffi Annan have made visionary policy statements and publicly recognized the problem of the AIDS pandemic, none of them have stepped forward to pull the lever on a creative program that will actually deliver life saving AIDS medicines to the forty million that face a death sentence.