India to Patent Vital Drug

The Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the Manipur Network of Positive People and the Lawyers’ Collective HIV/AIDS Unit officially submitted their opposition to a patent application filed by Glaxo Group Limited for Combivir, a fixed-dose combination of two AIDS drugs (zidovudine/lamivudine, or AZT/3TC). The opposition is based on technical and health grounds. If India grants a patent on this AIDS drug, it will set a precedent that will hamper access to affordable AIDS medicines worldwide. Dr. Pehrolov Pehrson said: “Affordable generic AIDS medicines have been one of the cornerstones of our ability to keep more people alive, including here in India where we began treating people with AIDS this year. Without a reliable supply of low- cost AIDS drugs–made possible because medicines patents did not exist in India for many years–national governments and treatment providers alike will be faced with an uphill battle, and patients risk having vital treatment interrupted or priced out of their reach.” Those opposing the patent argue that is not a new invention but simply the combination of two existing drugs. They say the granting of such a patent risks increasing the cost of anti-retroviral treatment for many people living with HIV/AIDS, thereby further increasing the burden on developing countries already struggling to treat patients.

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