ViiV adds pricey new HIV drug Tivicay to patent pool

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) CEO Andrew Witty set a precedent back in 2009, when his company placed several patents in a public pool to help developing countries find cures for HIV and other diseases--and then challenged other companies to do the same.

Now GSK is contributing to the cause again. ViiV Healthcare--an HIV-focused drug company it founded in 2009 with Pfizer ($PFE)--has inked a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool to accelerate access to its new drug, Tivicay (dolutegravir), in developing countries.

Under the MPP deal, ViiV is granting a royalty-free license to Tivicay in parts of Africa, the company said in a statement. In middle-income countries such as India, royalties will be pegged to each country's gross domestic product. Another license will allow generics makers to develop pediatric formulations royalty-free in the 121 countries where 99% of children afflicted with HIV live.

"By narrowing the gap between access to breakthrough new [antiretroviral drugs] in developed versus developing countries, the ViiV-MPP agreement represents a significant public health achievement," Greg Perry, MPP executive director, said in a statement. The organization will work with generics makers to make the drug available as soon as possible, he said.

Approved by the FDA last August, Tivicay is among the most costly HIV drugs, with a wholesale price of more than $14,000 a year. Analysts say it could become a $5 billion blockbuster. It was originally developed by Shionogi, which joined the ViiV joint venture last year.

By voluntarily relinquishing the patent to MPP for developing countries, ViiV joins a growing list of companies making concessions so the people who can't afford pricey new drugs can still get access to them. Roche ($RHHBY) threw its new HIV blindness drug, Valcyte, into the MPP last August. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Gilead ($GILD) have also jumped into the pool.

- here's the press release from ViiV
- read the announcement from Medicines Patent Pool
- get more at Reuters

Special Report: Top 10 drugmakers in emerging markets - GlaxoSmithKline