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expert reaction to GSK announcement regarding medicine patents in Least Developed and Low Income Countries

The pharmaceutical company GSK has announced a number of steps “designed to help bring innovative GSK medicines to more people living in the world’s poorest countries” including by adopting different approaches to intellectual property.

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Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive of Stratified Medical and former Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), said:

“GSK has taken the lead in past in terms of making medicines available for neglected tropical diseases and also for HIV through the Medicines Patent Pool. I am pleased to see that they are extending this to cancer and making their early stage oncology portfolio available in the same way.  GSK has a portfolio of both small molecules and antibodies in their oncology pipeline and clearly past experience with the patent pool has been with small molecules. It will be interesting to see how the immuno-oncology antibodies are made available since their cost of goods is higher than small molecules with more logistical challenges and whether this can then translate to antibodies in other therapeutic areas.”

 

Prof. Jayne Lawrence, Chief Scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said:

“Any initiative that potentially widens access to patients in the poorest parts of the world has to be good news. This current development by GSK builds on their widely publicised policy to address healthcare challenges of the developing world by taking an innovative, responsible and sustainable approach and should mean that patients in the developing world gain access to a cheaper form of GKS’s innovative new medicines more quickly.

“Encouragingly, the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is increasingly looking at ways of ensuring that the world’s poorest people obtain life-saving medicines at more affordable prices. For example, Merck KGaA have recently made similar moves to those announced today by GSK.”

 

Prof. Chas Bountra, Chief Scientist of the SGC and Professor of Translational Medicine, University of Oxford, said:

“This is a brilliant move by Andrew Witty. It will further improve access for millions, eventually billions of patients across the world. I am sure other companies will follow. We should all applaud this.”

 

Prof. Alan Boyd, President of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, said:

“The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine is pleased to see this commitment to widening a graduated approach to patents and intellectual property for medicines. This is a significant announcement and good news and should bring benefits to patients living in these countries. Access to medicines for patients on a global basis is vital and it is good to see an innovative approach like this to ensure this happens. We would encourage other companies to follow suit and consider adopting similar policies with their global patent and IP strategy.”

 

Prof. Raymond Hill, former President of the British Pharmacological Society (BPS), and Visiting Professor of Pharmacology at Imperial College London, said:

“This is a brave and positive step towards broadening the access to important new medicines in the developing world. It sets a precedent for other major multi-national Pharma companies to follow. The impact of this move on the treatment of cancer and other diseases in each individual country will depend on whether there is a local adequate healthcare infrastructure that will allow the safe use of powerful new drugs in an appropriate group of patients. Many new cancer drugs are most valuable when used in sub-groups of patients identified by advanced diagnostic techniques that may not be available.”

 

*http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/press-releases/2016/gsk-expands-graduated-approach-to-patents-and-intellectual-property-to-widen-access-to-medicines-in-the-world-s-poorest-countries/

 

Declared interests

Jackie Hunter: “past employee of GSK, CEO of Stratified Medical Ltd, a biotech working with pharmaceutical companies, holder of shares in range of companies including pharmaceutical companies, found of OI Pharma Partners Ltd, a life sciences innovation consultancy company.”

Prof. Lawrence has no interests to declare.

Prof. Bountra: “I used to work for GSK, and still hold shares in the company.”

Prof. Boyd has no conflicts of interest in this matter.

Prof. Hill: “I was employed in the Pharma industry for over 25 years latterly with MSD / Merck until retiring in 2008. I own a few shares in GSK and I am a non-executive director of Orexo a Swedish small pharma selling a drug for addiction treatment in the US and of Addex, Asceneuron and Avilex which are all small CNS drug discovery companies.”

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