Public-health experts have applauded drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for unveiling new patent policies that could make it easier for people in the world’s poorest countries to access drugs. But they say that other companies will need to follow suit if patients are to see significant improvements in access to medicines — particularly for much-needed cancer drugs.
After GSK’s announcement, media attention focused on the London-based company’s plan to stop filing for patents in 50 least developed and low-income countries (LDCs and LICs), such as Afghanistan and Zambia. That should make it easier for other manufacturers to supply generic versions of GSK’s drugs in those countries without fear of litigation, but other pharmaceutical firms — including Merck KGaA and Roche — had previously announced similar moves.
As for India, it does not mean much to the patients here as the country has outgrown this status so the MNCs will continue to file patents in India. It is therefore perhaps with good reason that Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), the global not-for-profit non-governmental organization, seeks more to expand access to patented medicines.