Magazine article New Internationalist

Johnson & Johnson Turns Its Back on Poor People with HIV

Magazine article New Internationalist

Johnson & Johnson Turns Its Back on Poor People with HIV

Article excerpt

1 DECEMBER

WORLD AIDS DAY

Patents held by drugs companies are a big reason why more than nine million people in the developing world are not getting the HIV medicines they need. So the creation in July 2010 of the Medicines Patent Pool - which encourages the pharmaceutical giants to loosen their grip on licences so that cheaper, better and more accessible HIV medicines can be made - was seen as a key victory for common sense.

But, hold the party poppers, there's a massive hitch. Some of the main players, notably Johnson & Johnson, are refusing to negotiate with the Pool, putting a huge number of lives at risk.

'It seems Johnson & Johnson have decided that their own business interests are more important than the effect of joining the Pool could have on the health of millions of people around the world,' says Diarmaid McDonald, spokesperson for the Stop AIDS Campaign.

Johnson & Johnson holds patents on three new HIV drugs that are desperately needed in the Global South. And, as some medicines are built from several patents from different sources, the company's refusal to play ball means some cheap, life-saving drugs can't even be made with those patents that have been licensed to the Pool.

'None of the companies own all the patents for the fixed-dose combinations recommended by the World Health Organization,' says Ellen 't Hoen, executive director of the Pool. 'So there is an awful lot of pressure on the companies that stay out.'

And even though joining the Pool would bring down the price of some HIV treatments from around $1,000 to less than $100 per patient per year, it would have little impact on the company's profit margins. …

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