Gilead Sciences ($GILD) has broken the ice on the AIDS drug patent pool. In a deal that will allow poor countries cheap access to its treatments, the company will share two of its leading HIV treatments--Viread (tenofovir) and Emtriva (emtricitabine)--along with two pipeline meds and a combo pill comprising all four.
As the first company to actually ink a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool, Gilead is expected to kick off a series of drug-access arrangements with makers of HIV drugs. Or so is the hope among patent pool boosters, who are calling the Gilead deal a public health "milestone," not only because it will make Viread and Emtriva available to countries that could never afford them otherwise, but because the company also licensed drugs still in development.
That will "significantly accelerate availability," MPP Executive Director Ellen 't Hoen said in a statement. "People in developing countries often have to wait for years before they can access new health technologies. This agreement changed that."
MPP is negotiating now with six other patent holders; Hoen told Reuters that she is working on similar deals with ViiV Healthcare, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sequoia Pharmaceuticals. If other companies do join the effort, it could save poor countries more than $1 billion a year in drug costs, Reuters notes. "This is not just a one-off. The whole field is changing...there will be more to follow," she told the news service.