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About the Make It Happen Campaign

What is the campaign ?

We targeted nine of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, each of whom hold the patents on important HIV drugs that could save millions of lives if only they were made accessible.  Through an online platform, supporters were able to send letters to as many CEOs of these companies as they wished setting out the arguments for the creation of the patent pool and calling on them to open up negotiations to put their patents in the pool.
In two months, over 300 000 letters, either online or by post, were sent from as far apart as Japan and Mexico, Myanmar and Burkina Faso and included people living with HIV as well as medical staff and supporters.  As of July 2011, 6 companies, Gilead, ViiV, Roche, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sequoia, had stated their intent to open up formal negotiations with the Pool about putting their patents in the pool, and the first company licence between Gilead and the Pool had been announced. Three companies; Merck, Abbott and Johnson & Johnson/Tibotec have yet to get on board.

Why is MSF involved ?

The big drug companies are very active in developing new antiretroviral drugs to fight HIV BUT they are too often sold at a price that shuts out access for the vast majority of patients in developing countries. This is because of the monopoly protection given to these drugs in many countries through the patent system- a system that keeps prices high by preventing market competition from any other drug producers for up to 20 years. Without competition there is no pressure to bring prices down.
As a provider of HIV treatment to 170 000 people, the rising costs of these drugs mean that MSF and other care providers’ ability to treat patients, will be restricted unless new ways of delivering effective and affordable medicines for patients in developing countries are supported.  Any hope of expanding treatment to all those in need -  currently 10 million are still excluded from treatment - is also dependent on assuring access to quality assured, affordable HIV medicines.
The patent pool is a new and exciting initiative that could help to increase access to quality, safe, more affordable drugs adapted for use in developing countries. 
But it can only work if the big pharmaceutical companies agree to licence their HIV drugs to the Pool for all developing countries.

What specific things could a patent pool help us with ?

Need for newer and better antiretrovirals
Right now 6.6 million people are on treatment for HIV and AIDS. Some of those people have already developed resistance to their medicines and need to be switched to the ‘second-line’ of treatment which includes newer medicines to fight the virus. Others will follow. Moreover, as newer and better drugs are recommended, treatment providers have to switch patients from the older, less effective medicines to newer but more expensive options. ‘Second-line’ drugs presently cost up to seven times more than the medicines the majority of patients are taking now.
Simplified treatment in the form of fixed dose combination pills
HIV treatment is complex and requires patients to take a number of different drugs to fight the virus. This can be very demanding, with different medicines needing to be taken at different times of day and in different formulations. And for life. So combining the different drugs into one easy-to-take pill helps patients stick to their treatment. The patent pool could give a big boost to the production of these so called fixed-dose combination pills as the patents for all the different drugs would be held in one place and not solely by all the different big pharmaceutical companies.
Children need more treatment options
There are proportionately far too few treatment options still for children with HIV. A patent pool could help to change this and allow the development of child-formulated drugs and drug combinations.

What is the goal of the campaign ?

The initial aim of the campaign, launched in October 2009, was to garner enough support from potential participants to allow the creation of the UNITAID medicines patent pool to go ahead in principle. That achieved, the next step is now to continue to put pressure on the drug companies to open up formal negotiations with the Medicines Patent Pool over the terms on which they will agree to voluntarily licence their HIV medicines patents to the Pool.  The first public announcement came in September 2010, when the US National Institutes of Health said it would license a patent on the HIV medicine, darunavir to the pool. As of July 2011, 6 companies, Gilead, ViiV, Roche, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sequoia, had stated their intent to open up formal negotiations with the Pool about putting their patents in the pool, and the first company licence between Gilead and the Pool had been announced. Three companies; Merck, Abbott and Johnson & Johnson/Tibotec have yet to get on board.
Last updated: July 2011
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