Global pharma major GlaxoSmithKline has announced a change in policy that will doubtless benefit large portions of the patient population in low- and middle-income countries. In a statement on its website today, the company announced that it will not seek patent protection in Least Developed Countries and Low Income Countries. Further, it has announced that it will a more open licensing policy in Lower Middle Income Countries that will allow generic players to enter the market before the expiry of GSK’s patents.
Most importantly, however, GSK has expressed a commitment to license its oncology patents to the Medicines Patent Pool, a UN-backed initiative to improve access to medicine that has seen success in combating the AIDS epidemic and other communicable diseases. Seeking to build on this success by expanding the MPP to cancer treatment, GSK has proposed to license its anti-cancer drug patents to the Pool.
Civil society has been quick to respond to the announcement, with Knowledge Ecology International commending the move. KEI welcomed GSK’s decision in guarded terms, noting that initiatives such as the MPP only catered to a part of the public health problem. Further, KEI expressed hope that GSK’s licensing policies would be transparent, and enable the export of MPP-enabled drugs to countries that are not LDCs or LICs. KEI has also urged other pharma companies to match GSK’s initiative, and expanding the scope of the MPP beyond HIV and the Hepatitis C Virus. KEI’s statement ends strongly and bears full reproduction for its cautionary note:
“[GSK CEO] Sir Andrew Witty has shown exceptional leadership, and we look forward to the implementation of this ambitious set of initiatives. In our view, even these welcome measures are not enough, and we continue to press for global delinkage of R&D costs from drug prices, and open licenses on all products. But people live and die in both the short and the long term, and the GSK announcement means more cancer patients will live longer and better lives in the near term, and that is good news.”