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Big Pharma to Share Patents on AIDS Drugs

The U.S. National Institutes of Health and a growing number of pharmaceutical companies are sharing intellectual property to make AIDS drugs more available to third-world countries.

What’s the Latest Development?


A patent pool created by the international AIDS organization Unitaid calls for the sharing of intellectual property to make generic AIDS drugs available to countries with the most need. The U.S. National Institutes of Health was the first body to volunteer its patents for sharing, allowing generic drug makers to benefit from the research. Gilead Sciences is the first private company to join the pool with eight others reportedly in negotiations to do so. The idea comes from a patent pool created for airplane manufacturers during World War I. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The newest antiretroviral therapy, if taken as soon as someone is diagnosed with AIDS, can reduce the risk that that person will transmit the disease to their sexual partner by 96 percent. Sharing patents will help make these drugs available to poor countries sooner by eliminating the 20-year wait typically required for patents to expire. Sharing patents will also make it easier for combination therapies, where different AIDS drugs can be combined into one pill without violating intellectual property rights. Studies show that people are more likely to stick to their regime if they need take only one pill once or twice daily. 


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