GSK takes a pro-patent stance, and currently is seeking a patent in India for Combivir—the first ARV to be reviewed under
India's new patent laws. GSK also has a monopoly on Epivir in China, but has not made the drug available in the dosages required.
The company says "having a policy that states that patents will not be enforced in certain markets does not necessarily make
it easier for generics to become available. In fact, blanket 'relaxations' could mean that companies 'wash their hands' of
the issue and do not register new products...or provide technology transfer."
Tibotec, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is bringing to market several novel HIV therapies and a multi-drug-resistant TB
product, which would be the first one in several decades. Although the products have not yet been approved, Tibotec is off
to a good start, expressing an openness to partnering with generic companies and granting a royalty-free license to the International
Partnership for Microbicides.
J&J reports to the public with a Web site that integrates charitable grants, research, IP licenses, and workplace programs.
This is superior to the typical philanthropy-driven reporting at peer companies. Nonetheless, a more explicit discussion of
core business risk, especially given J&J's dual exposure to AIDS through its substantial consumer-product operations and sector-specific
pharmaceuticals, is necessary.
Lilly's multi-drug-resistant TB program is a bright spot in the world of tuberculosis treatment. Lilly has taken the extraordinary
step of transferring manufacturing technology needed to produce cycloserine and capreomycin to several generic firms. These
drugs for MDR-TB no longer have patent protection and so no actual license was necessary. Nonetheless, Lilly made a $70-million
technology transfer and support commitment, and matched it with academic and NGO partnerships that increase the capacity of
health systems to treat MDR-TB. We do not believe there would be significant generic production of these products without
Lilly's engagement. Unfortunately, given Lilly's research priorities and clinical strengths, as well as its lack of an internal
neglected-disease program, the company is unlikely to yield new drugs to combat diseases of poverty.
Merck's history of responding to neglected diseases is strong, and its philanthropy rates the highest in the industry. The
company's 20-year-old Mectizan donation program for river blindness is often viewed as a model for drug-donation programs.
More recently, Merck has entered into several HIV/AIDS public-private partnerships in Botswana, China, and Romania, in which
it has been noted for its significant funding and strong emphasis on treatment and evidence-based prevention programs. However,
the company's HIV/AIDS response appears to be overly driven by philanthropy. Merck should tap into the full force of its core
business strengths to overcome registration lags—the 600 mg and 200 mg formulations are still only registered in 25 of the
40 Sub-Saharan countries—and a still-tentative licensing approach.