24 February 2015 | Statements

Medicines Patent Pool signs license to make HIV treatment for children cheaper

UNITAID welcomes the new licence agreement between the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and MSD (Merck) which will enable much more affordable paediatric formulations of raltegravir, a key WHO-recommended medicine for children living with HIV who are four weeks of age and older.

Through this deal, generic manufacturers anywhere in the world can develop, manufacture and sell low-cost raltegravir paediatric formulations in countries with 98% of the children in need. The MPP was founded and remains fully-funded by UNITAID as part of its strategy to increase access to HIV medicines for those most in need.  The MPP’s licence agreements generate returns of up to twentyfold for UNITAID’s investments through the cost savings generated for global purchasers of the new formulations.  Raltegravir is currently recommended for paediatric third-line medicines, but is expected to have expanded use in the coming years.

“So far, treating new-borns has been very challenging as the right kind of medicines in the right kind of formulations have been sorely lacking,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of UNITAID. “Generic production of raltegravir will allow major global health funders, such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR, to purchase this best-in-class drug at vastly reduced prices, and enable many more children to be treated for the same money.”

“HIV-infected children must be initiated on antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible in order to maintain their health,” said Dr Philippe Duneton, Deputy Executive Director of UNITAID. “Without treatment, half of them will die before they are two years old.”

This new licence agreement from the MPP complements UNITAID’s other investments in paediatric HIV such as its project with DNDi to develop new formulations for infants and very small children living with HIV.

UNITAID’s continuing investment in the MPP enables:

1. Easy access to product licences via a ‘one-stop-shop’ to give generic manufacturers the ability to produce new medicines from an ‘à la carte menu’ rather than a ‘fixed menu’. This means new and better drug combinations can be produced, making treatment easier for patients, caregivers and health services.

2. A win-win outcome for all involved: pharmaceutical companies retain their existing ‘developed’ markets and expand their access into new low and middle income country markets which would have otherwise been unreachable, and receive a small fee in the process from sales. Funding-agencies gain increased value for money through accessing reduced prices and better products, generic producers gain expanded business opportunities, and patients have increased access to better health products.

3. Increased equity in global access to healthcare, by speeding up access to choice treatments already available in industrialised countries for people in low and middle income countries.

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