Benchmarking AIDS - Pharmaceutical Executive


Benchmarking AIDS
Pharma is taking on the global AIDS crisis. But who has crafted the best approach? The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility defines best practices and matches major companies head-to-head. Grades are posted inside.

Pharmaceutical Executive

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."

[Promising Pipeline]

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.

[Technology Transfer]

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.

[Philanthropy Know-How]

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.


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