On April 1st there was a major development with ViiV (who are a subsidiary of UK pharma company GlaxoSmithKline) announcing a new collaboration on HIV medicines with the Medicines Patent Pool. This is a huge cause for CELEBRATION as ViiV have signed two licensing agreements to increase access to dolutegravir (DTG), a promising new antiretroviral, for both adult and paediatric care. The agreements would allow generic manufacturers to produce low-cost versions of DTG for  countries with the highest HIV burden, where 93% of adults and 99% of children living with HIV in the developing world reside.

This really is incredible news! Dolutegravir has minimal side-effects and a high barrier to resistance. With fewer side effects  it means that taking HIV medication everyday doesn’t have to interfere with people’s quality of life (side-effects for older drugs have ranged from  nausea to depression, insomnia, skin rashes and changes in the fat distribution of the body). Furthermore, it means that it is easier to adhere to your regiment – and since being on medication means your chances of passing on the infection to someone else are reduced by 98% –  transmission rates could be drastically reduced!

Student Stop AIDS Campaign have been pushing ViiV to join the pool since it’s creation in 2010, so this is a massive campaign success for us too! Here’s a time line of how we got here!

2010: We launched our hand printing campaign at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, we got conference goers to sign action cards and deliver them directly to the pharmaceutical company stands! Loads of people took part in the mini direct action getting the message of the patent pool out to more people within the pharma companies.

Since then we collected over 10,000 hand prints from people asking pharmaceutical companies to join up to the pool, particularly GSK/ViiV. Individual societies and groups did amazing work, like Nottingham Stop AIDS Society collecting an excellent hand print banner telling GSK to sign up…. and UAEM members collecting us an amazing selection of hand prints as well!

nottingham patent pool

2011: For our annual Day of Action we donned our bikinis and speedos, grabbed our inflatable beach balls and planted ourselves outside of the GSK AGM for our ‘Join the patent POOL PARTY’. 




We attracted a lot of public attention and took the chance to inform people about the pool and collected more hand prints.



… And most importantly we met two GSK representatives outside!  We told them about IMG_1857the JOY that would come from them jumping into the pool allowing millions of people in developing countries to access affordable versions of new HIV medicines!







2012: We marched to the ViiV Glaxo Smith Kline headquarters sending a clear message to staff inside that enough is enough. Armed with 50 ticking alarm clocks we demanded that the TIME had come for them to join the pool!

ViiV 2

Since then we have been doing much behind the scenes work to keep the pressure up on ViiV, alongside other companies such as Johnson and Johnson , Merck and Abbott who are yet to join the pool.

This move by ViiV makes the already disreputable position of MSD and Johnson and Johnson even more shameful and should act as clear leverage for these two companies to begin discussions with the patent pool.  It should also put further pressure on Abbott to speed up their negotiations with the MPP and to widen the beneficiaries of their drug to include both adults and children.

For more on Student Stop AIDS involvement with the patent pool click here.

Here is a quick summary of the agreement:

  • There are two licences: one adult, one paediatric. Both significantly expand on the previous standard ViiV licence geographic scope.
  • The adult licence now includes the public and non-profit markets in India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Egypt, Indonesia and Turkmenistan after the MPP negotiated a system of tiered royalties for these countries. It covers 93% of people living with HIV in the developing world. The paediatric licence is broader, covering 99% of children living with HIV in the developing world.
  • The licences allow for export of generic dolutegravir to 50 additional countries where there is no patent, including Thailand.
  • There are no restrictions on sourcing of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), manufacture can happen anywhere, and there are no restrictions on generic manufacturers’ rights to supply generic dolutegravir to countries that issue a compulsory licence.

However although the license covers many developing countries, we are disappointed that it excludes some countries with serious HIV epidemics (such as China, North Africa, Russia, Ukraine and some Latin America countries), extreme inequality and poverty, and people living with HIV who still do not have access to treatment. However, the agreement places no restrictions on generic manufacturers who take up the licence from supplying excluded countries if they issue compulsory licences to access affordable generic versions of the medicine.

STOPAIDS Advocacy Manager Diarmaid McDonald said,

“We’ve not yet seen the detail of this agreement, but it looks like a significant positive development in the effort to secure affordable access to the best possible HIV medicines for the millions who need it across the developing world. Dolutegravir is an eagerly anticipated new drug, and was only registered in the US last year. It’s great that through the Pool, ViiV have already agreed a licence that will allow competitive generic production – the key to affordable access.

The Medicines Patent Pool is making progress. Voluntary licenses between companies were once secret but with the Pool, they are now fully transparent, and that transparency is edging up the quality of the licences. However, the patent pool is only one piece of the puzzle.

“We need to ensure all developing countries can use the flexibilities enshrined in the international TRIPS agreement on intellectual property to ensure affordable access to medical products. Developing countries with serious poverty and access issues were excluded from this deal. They should prepare compulsory licences to secure generic versions of dolutegravir.”

Read the full MPP announcement on the ViiV deal here.