Patents and Access to Medicines for HIV - a looming crisis


Patents and access to medicines from a 2013 report on AIDS by Medicins Sans Frontieres:

Because millions of people need to be initiated and sustained on treatment regimens for life, it is as critical as ever to ensure ARVs [anti-retro-virals] are affordable. Competition among generic producers was instrumental in bringing down the price of the first generation of ARVs, and is one of the key reasons treatment could be scaled up to millions of people. Today, first-line ART is available for just under US$100 per person per year (ppy), which is a 99% decrease from 2000, when treatments still under patent were priced at more than $10,000 ppy.

But the situation today is different and the progress achieved is once again under threat. Key countries, especially India, where generics are produced, now grant medicine patents in order to comply with their international obligations as members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) [medicine patents re-introduced in 2005 after being abolished in 1970]. Newer ARVs are already patented in these countries, meaning that production of affordable generic medicines is now restricted, keeping monopoly prices high.

With upwards of 55 million people expected to need ARV therapy by the year 2030, global patent rules are contributing to a looming crisis as current drugs lose their effectiveness and their newer, patented replacements are priced out of reach for all but the wealthy.