In an attempt to broaden global access to expensive medications, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced Thursday it will adopt a graduated approach to patenting its drugs, depending on the wealth of countries.
This approach will make it easier for companies in the world’s poorest countries to manufacture generics of its medications, the Britain-based company said.
The pharmaceuticals industry has in the past used tiered pricing in poorer countries, but this is the first time a company has decided to waive its patent rights in particular nations.
GSK has compiled a list of about 50 countries with a combined population of nearly 1 billon people, where it will not file for patents. In lower middle-income countries, GSK said it will continue to seek patents but will grant license deals that allow generic versions of its drugs to sell for 10 years (in exchange for a “small royalty”). In high- and upper middle-income countries — including China, Brazil and India — the company will continue to seek full patent protection.
GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty, who will step down next year, said he anticipates Africa will benefit the most from this plan.
“The changes we are setting out aim to make it as clear and simple as possible for generic manufacturers to make and supply versions of GSK medicines,” said Witty.
Also, GSK will place its next-generation cancer drugs into a Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and allow access to competitors. MPP has helped accelerate access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis C to developing countries.
Last year, GSK sold its established cancer drugs to Novartis in exchange for the company’s consumer healthcare and vaccines businesses.
Specialty drug costs, particularly cancer treatments, have risen dramatically. In the U.S. the cost of all cancer care totaled $124.5 billion in 2010, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. That total cost is projected to rise to $157.7 billion by 2020.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery