Noehrenberg International Policy Consultancy, Geneva, Switzerland
Patent pools have been promoted as an innovative means of promoting the production of fixed-dose combination antiretroviral medicines (ARVs), which can be particularly appropriate for resource-poor settings. An important question, however, is what are the implications of patent pools on innovation for creating new and improved antiretrovirals. Indeed, given the continuing mutation of HIV and growing resistance to existing treatments, continued innovation in ARV development is vital for addressing these challenges. Would patent pools be a hindrance or rather a stimulus for further innovation? This question is particularly relevant in light of UNITAID’s initiative to create a patent pool for ARV development, focusing on pediatric formulations and new combinations, by the end of 2009.
In this article, the author argues that a voluntary and well-designed patent pool, involving both innovative and generic manufacturers, focused on developing fixed-dose combinations for resource-poor markets with the greatest need, could actually stimulate increased innovation to meet these needs. Indeed, by bringing together the major ARV producers worldwide to collaborate on developing products which will meet the needs of the poorest, an ARV patent pool could create significant public health benefits. UNITAID has taken the lead in designing and implementing such a pool and UNITAID’s experience will have important lessons for policy-makers in the future.
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