Medicines Patent Pool expands its mandate to hepatitis C treatment

6 Nov 2015 Bridie Taylor

The World Hepatitis Alliance welcomes the recent announcement from the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that they will be expanding their mandate to include hepatitis C medicines. At a meeting held in Geneva 4-5 November, UNITAID’s Executive Board approved MPP’s proposals to broaden access to hepatitis C drugs.

One of the key goals of the World Hepatitis Alliance is to ensure the best medicines are available as quickly as possible at a price that is affordable so that those wanting treatment have access. We believe that MPP have an important role to play in helping us achieve this goal. As the world’s only public health voluntary licensing mechanism, since its creation in 2010, the MPP has negotiated voluntary licensing agreements with all the major pharmaceutical companies that allow some or all of their antiretroviral products to be copied by generic manufacturers for sale at greatly reduced prices in lower- and middle-income countries. We believe that MPP’s existing relationships with the pharmaceutical industry and the experience in the area of HIV will allow much faster price reductions than will be obtained through patent opposition.

The announcement from MPP follows the public launch of our access to treatment open letter, in which over 120 organisations from 55 countries came together to demand immediate action to vastly improve access to life-saving hepatitis drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recently stressed the need to address the issue of access to hepatitis C treatments, with WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan stating at a joint WHO/WIPO/WTO symposium: “For public health, the biggest question is this: how to extend the benefits of these medicines to the developing world, where the vast majority of infected people live?” 

We believe that MPP’s expansion will directly address this issue, helping to facilitate access to more affordable treatment for the millions of people with hepatitis C, and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Going forward we strongly encourage the MPP to consider further expanding their mandate to include hepatitis B medicines as treatment remains inaccessible to many people living with hepatitis B in lower- and middle-income countries.

The Medicines Patent Pool's full announcement can be read here.