Activists ask GSK to pool HIV patents

Anti-AIDS activists are calling on GlaxoSmithKline to contribute its HIV-related intellectual property to a patent pool. In a letter from 15 organizations--including the Médecins Sans Frontiéres, Unicef and Christian Aid--the pool is touted as a way to improve access to medicines to combat AIDS.

The request comes after Glaxo chief Andrew Witty (photo) told The Guardian that he had doubts about an HIV-drug patent pool. But, he said, "I'm not saying no to anything because nobody's actually put in front of me a really concrete proposition." Well, the concrete proposition has apparently come. The activists are calling on Witty to meet Unitaid, the group that's trying to put together the HIV patent pool.

Witty has been touting Glaxo's efforts to make medicines more accessible to folks in developing countries. The company has slashed its prices in those countries, and it has set up a patent pool to support development of meds for diseases that get little attention in the industrialized world. Witty has also said he's willing to grant licenses to generics makers so that cheap copies of its HIV meds can be made for specific markets. Will he engage with Unitaid? We'll have to wait and see.

- read the Guardian piece