KEI statement on GSK’s announcement of policies to expand access to patented medicines

GSK has made a major announcement of new policies to expand access to its patented medicines. A copy of the press statement is here. In a nutshell, GSK promises to file fewer patents or license patents in low income countries, lower prices in lower income countries, make its patent landscape more transparent, and to license patents to its oncology drugs to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), in a number of (but not all) low and middle income countries. Knowledge Ecology International issued the following statement today:

The decision by GSK to license patents on cancer drugs to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) is welcome and impressive news. At present, the disparities in access to cancer drugs are incredibly harsh, and much more unequal than one sees for HIV and HCV drugs, the two areas where the MPP is now active.

The details will be important. For both HIV and HCV drugs, the MPP has used open licenses that are transparent. Companies can sign on to MPP licenses and still maintain independence from the patent holder on other issues, and these features are important, and we assume that GSK’s decision to use the MPP is a decision to embrace these policies.

All of the MPP licenses apply to a limited number of countries, and do not address all of the important access challenges. For this reason, it has been important that the MPP licenses have also allowed products manufactured under an MPP license to be exported to countries outside of the licensed territory, where there is no patent or where compulsory licenses have been issued. We also expect the GSK licenses for cancer drugs to permit exports outside of the territory, where the exports are otherwise lawful in the importing country.

The GSK decisions on filing and licensing patents on other products in lower income countries, and the commitments on pricing and transparency, are all welcome initiatives.

Other companies, such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer, Astellas, and BMS, with important oncology drugs should begin to engage on expanding access to their patented medicines, beyond just HIV and HCV drugs.

Sir Andrew Witty has shown exceptional leadership, and we look forward to the implementation of this ambitious set of initiatives. In our view, even these welcome measures are not enough, and we continue to press for global delinkage of R&D costs from drug prices, and open licenses on all products. But people live and die in both the short and the long term, and the GSK announcement means more cancer patients will live longer and better lives in the near term, and that is good news.”

James Love

James Love is the Director of Knowledge Ecology International. Previously, he was an economist for the Center for Study of Responsive Law where he also directed the Consumer Project on Technology and the Taxpayer Assets Project, Senior Economist for the Frank Russell Corporation, and held lecturer positions at Rutgers and Princeton Universities. His KEI webpage is