Poor AIDS Patients May See Cheaper Drugs

California company agrees to allow knock-off pills.

The Gilead deal makes it seem as though this June 8, 2011, rally outside the United Nations building in New York City did some good. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. has agreed to allow generic drug manufacturers to knock off four of its AIDS medications, potentially sending affordable life-sustaining compounds to HIV-sufferers in impoverished nations, many of them in Africa. HIV has infected 33 million people around the globe. Most of the infected live in Africa.

The Associated Press reports:

The deal was negotiated by the Medicines Patent Pool, part of a U.N.-led partnership that raises money for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by things like taxing airplane tickets.

Last year, the U.S. National Institutes of Health allowed one of its patented drugs to be made generically via the same group, but this is the first deal with a private company. Several other pharmaceutical companies, including F. Hoffman-La Roche, Sequoia Pharmaceuticals and ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture between GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Pfizer Inc., are in talks with the group.

"We will continue to work with Gilead and others to expand access to all people living with HIV in developing countries," said Ellen 't Hoen, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool.

Gilead will receive from three to five percent royalties on its four drugs, which will be supplied to about 100 countries.

Gilead Sciences specializes in medications to treat AIDS and liver disease, such as hepatitis, and is profitable through sales to the monied west. The royalties from generics manufacturers will have little impact on its bottom line. Typically, patients in poor countries are forced to wait until patents held by western companies expire before life-saving drugs can be manufactured generically.

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