The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), the world’s only voluntary licensing mechanism in public health, has announced an expansion of its mandate to hepatitis C and tuberculosis medicines. The UNITAID executive board, meeting 4-5 November in Geneva, approved the MPP’s proposals to improve access to both life-saving direct acting antivirals (DAAs) to treat hepatitis C and new and re-purposed medicines for tuberculosis. UNITAID created the MPP in 2010 to provide better health options for people living with HIV. To date, MPP has signed agreements for twelve antiretrovirals (ARVs) for countries home to 87-93% of people living with HIV in the developing world.
“I greatly welcome the broadening of the Medicines Patent Pool’s mandate to encompass hepatitis C and tuberculosis, giving MPP a vital opportunity to help secure lower prices for medicines to fight these two lethal diseases,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, chair of the executive board at UNITAID. “The MPP is a cornerstone of UNITAID’s efforts to transform the HIV medicines market and rapidly scale up HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries,” said Lelio Marmora, UNITAID’s executive director. “The MPP now joins us in helping to meet international targets to make curative hepatitis C and TB medicines accessible to those who need them.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that hepatitis C (HCV) affects between 130m and 150m people worldwide. The vast majority lives in low- and middle-income countries. New direct acting antivirals that are effective across all major HCV strains could cure millions. Building on its HIV model, the MPP will seek to license for generic manufacture new and pipeline hepatitis C medicines that can eliminate the virus in a short course of oral therapy.
“The recent approval of new treatments with greater efficacy and low side effects represents an incredible opportunity to move closer to eradication, but only if these drugs are affordable and accessible,” said Raquel Peck, CEO for the World Hepatitis Alliance, an umbrella organisation representing 400m patients. “We have urged for the Medicines Patent Pool’s participation in the HCV response and are thrilled with the UNITAID board decision.”
Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV and killed 1.5m people globally in 2014 alone. TB treatment has become more complex, particularly with the emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The MPP will work to ensure access to new treatments for multi-resistant and drug-susceptible TB.
“The TB Alliance welcomes the MPP’s entry into the TB field,” said Mel Spigelman, president & CEO of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the world’s leading product development partnership (PDP) for the development of TB medicines. “We are looking forward to working with the MPP on a range of projects, from access-oriented licensing for new drugs and regimens, to the development of appropriate formulations for children.”
“We thank UNITAID for its confidence in the MPP,” said Greg Perry, MPP’s executive director. “MPP believes that its unique approach to negotiating licences for HIV is working and we look forward to applying our model to tackling access and innovation challenges in HCV and TB.”
New numbers released today confirm that the MPP has saved the international community $119.6m from the procurement of low-cost HIV medicines, and its generic partners have distributed 7.26m patient-years of treatments. The organisation is working on more than 50 development projects to bring MPP-licensed HIV antiretrovirals to market. These antiretrovirals include new promising treatments as well as WHO-recommended HIV medicines for first and second-line treatment for adults and children of all age groups.Medicines Patent Pool material