Gilead Sciences announced today that it will license four AIDS and hepatitis B drugs to an international patent pool, allowing cheap, generic versions to be produced for sale in low-income countries. The AIDS drugs, which include tenofovir and emtricitabine, represent a major upgrade on the treatments currently available in those countries, the New York Times reports. The move makes Gilead the first major drug manufacturer to contribute to the Medicines Patent Pool.
Until now, the pool had received only a patent fragment for little-known drug from the National Institutes of Health. “This is a great achievement,” says the advocate who first proposed the patent pool. “The other drug companies didn’t want Gilead to sign anything, and this will put pressure on them.” But other experts told the AP the deal was flawed because it banned generic drug powerhouses Thailand and Brazil from producing the drugs. (Read more Gilead Sciences stories.)