In a view to making the antiviral drug, remdesivir available for all, two health advocacy groups have written and urged the Indian government to withdraw patents granted to an American biopharmaceutical (bio-pharma) company, Gilead Sciences Inc. (Gilead Sciences).
Recently, the US government has only approved a remdesivir drug for the emergency use in the treatment of the coronavirus patients as there are currently no other drugs or vaccines approved to fight coronavirus, which has killed more than 300,000 people globally.
Mounting Pressure to Cancel Gilead’s Patents
The health groups reminded that India should cancel its deal for granting an exclusive patent right of the remdesivir to Gilead Sciences so that the drug can be made available to coronavirus patients around the world, particularly in poorer nations. The bio-pharm company-owned patents of India-based drug for remdesivir stem from 2009 when the drug was in development to treat Ebola and India’s role as the host of the generic drug-making country could make and sell of the critical drugs.
This week, meanwhile, Gilead announced that it had signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drug makers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries. However, health groups put concerns on how to make cheaper forms of the drug available to other nations, including the poorest countries.
Gopakumar, a senior legal researcher at Third World Network (TWN), which sent a letter to the Indian government on Wednesday, explained, “The licenses divide the global market into two and profitable markets are retained with Gilead and less profitable markets are given to the five generic companies.” A similar appeal was put forward by an India-based non-profit organization, Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) last week.
Gilead’s Response for More Inclusive Plans
An international humanitarian aid group, Doctors Without Borders Corp. has also opposed Gilead’s patents on remdesivir, saying that such licensing pacts are “not acceptable” amid a global health emergency. Under the license deal, Gilead’s patents on remdesivir in India allow it to exclusively make and sell the drug in the country until 2035 unless it licenses those rights out.
A Gilead spokeswoman told in an email that the company was “actively considering every potential pathway” to make the drug available to those who need and added that it held talks with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool and the United Nations Children’s Fund to expand access to it. The spokeswoman, referring to the concerns regarding the patent owning of companies, reflected, “Compulsory licensing will not solve the challenge of limited supply.”
CPAA insisted that it might pursue legal action, citing that cancer patients are highly susceptible to the virus, “It is imperative at a time like this that no monopoly rights be granted so that more manufacturers can produce the drug to be made available to all the people who need it, at affordable costs.”
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