Oxfam response to Pharmacia's non-exclusive voluntary licence for delavirdine

January 24, 2003

Oxfam welcomes Pharmacia's decision to issue a non-exclusive voluntary licence for its antiretroviral, delavirdine.

We are pleased Pharmacia has recognized that the intellectual property regime is a barrier to access to medicines in poor countries and that thecompany has reacted responsibly by voluntarily removing these barriers. We hope that the pharmaceutical industry will consider issuing licenses for other medicines and allow generic competition to bring the prices of key medicines down across the board.

It is a positive development that the licence is non-exclusive. This means that production will not be limited to any one company so competition between manufacturers should encourage the maximum possible price reductions on this drug.

The 78 countries that meet the criterion of having a GNI per capita of less than $1,200 or an HIV infection rate of more than 1% will be allowed to purchase generic delavirdine. Though a welcome extension of some previous offers, this does beg the question of how poor people in richer markets can benefit from price offers, and highlights the need to address the broader question of how to segregate rich and poor markets.

Voluntary licensing offers the potential to transfer technology, knowledge and expertise from developed to developing countries. To this end, Pharmacia should offer production support to generic manufacturers who are based in developing countries to ensure they are able to meet the quality standards.

Oxfam welcomes this individual decision, but it is a barely drop in the ocean in terms of global health needs. A global solution must be found so that developing countries without manufacturing capacity can make full use of the safeguards in the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. A long-term legal solution is critical to ensure that people living in poor receive much needed treatment. In its absence, ad hoc corporate initiatives will end up determining who receives treatment for what, rather than governments deciding their own health priorities.

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