Oxfam response to Roche and Medicines Patent Pool announcement today

Published: 5th August 2013

Today, pharmaceutical company Roche announced that it will contribute to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) by making its drug Valganciclovir affordable as a first step before licensing it to the MPP. The medicine is an anti viral drug that treats a type of blindness, caused by the Cytomegalo virus (CMV), which affects people with late stage HIV.

In response to the announcement Oxfam's senior health & HIV policy advisor, Dr Mohga Kamal-Yanni, said:

"Blindness caused by CMV is actually a neglected disease, so Roche's agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool is a step in the right direction in making this important medicine more affordable for people with HIV.

"This announcement should encourage other companies to submit their patents on key antiretrovials to the MPP, which are urgently needed to treat people living with HIV. We hope that the announcement opens the door for generic competition which is the sure way of decreasing medicines prices.

"Whilst big pharmaceutical companies' main interests lie in protecting their profit margins, there is a huge moral argument for them to give licences for affordable versions of their HIV medicines, given the fact there are still nearly 7 million people globally living with this deadly disease who get no treatment at all.

"It is also crucial that any new treatments that offer more effectiveness and lesser side effects are made affordable, so that we can see a future when HIV is no longer a death sentence for those who cannot afford medicines."

Contact information

For more information please contact:  Sarah Dransfield on 01865 472269, 07767 085636, email: sdransfield@oxfam.org.uk

Notes to editors:

The aim of the Medicines Patent Pool is to improve access to life-saving drugs for people living with HIV in developing countries, by negotiating for licences with the drug companies who hold the patents for HIV medicines. Once medicines are in the Patent Pool it means generic manufacturers can produce cheaper versions of the drugs, making them more affordable for the poorest people. It also helps to advance research in developing new medicines to combat HIV.

Today's announcement has two stages, firstly Roche will make the drug more affordable and then it will license it to the MPP for generics to compete in producing it.

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