Unitaid reaffirms its support to the Medicines Patent Pool, a key player for equitable access to life-saving medicines

UNITAID - 11/30/2020 3:35:00 PM

Geneva - Through the approval of a new $34.3 million grant for the next five years to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), Unitaid has reinforced its historic commitment to equitable access to affordable, quality medicines for all.

Founded by Unitaid 10 years ago, MPP has established itself as a key player in global health through facilitating rapid access to medicines for people affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis C in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Since its inception, MPP's work with pharmaceutical manufacturers and partners has contributed to supplying over 15 billion doses of quality generic treatments for HIV and hepatitis C in LMICs.

Over the past six years, as part of a coalition of partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, PEPFAR, Unitaid, and countries such as South Africa and civil society, MPP has facilitated the development, scale-up, and roll-out of dolutegravir (DTG) and the DTG combination regimen TLD (tenofovir/lamivudine/dolutegravir). TLD is a more efficient fixed-dose combination that contributes to decreasing the pill burden and increasing adherence to treatment for people living with HIV.

Joint efforts have contributed to making these life-saving drugs available at historically low prices. Countries are now procuring DTG for less than US$ 70 per person, per year bringing substantial savings that can be reinvested in other areas. Current annual savings are enough to procure treatment for an additional 5 million people every year.

The WHO recommends DTG-based treatment as the preferred first- and second-line regimen for people living with HIV. MPP has also contributed to the development and distribution of different pediatric formulations that are better suited to children, and has played a critical role in enabling affordable access to hepatitis C treatments in many LMICs.

This new grant, that covers the period 2021-2025, will enable MPP to further its work centered around negotiating voluntary licenses and expanding production capacities for HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C medicines in order to make them more widely available and affordable for those who need it. The project also includes extending MPP's scope to long-acting therapeutics, working alongside all Unitaid-funded long-acting projects with the objective to bring simplified treatments to patients and increase adherence. A further area of work targets voluntary licensing of patented medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.

"As the world is facing a major pandemic in its history, much can be learned from the positive experience and successes of the MPP in contributing to making treatments available and affordable for those who need them the most," said Marisol Touraine, Chair of the Unitaid Executive Board and former French health Minister. "We are proud to extend our support to the organisation and continue to work together in favour of access to innovation for the most vulnerable."

"Access to medicines is more than ever crucial for public health systems in low- and middle-income countries. We are honored by the renewed confidence of Unitaid" said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Chair of MPP's Executive Board. "Thanks to our partnership, MPP will continue to play a key role in providing access to quality, affordable and safe treatments and technologies in LMICs, making a critical contribution to the achievement of Universal Health Coverage by 2030."

"We as communities welcome this great announcement" said Nelson Otwoma, Executive Director of the National Network of PLHAs in Kenya (NEPHAK). "If today in Kenya 1.1 million people living with HIV are on antiretrovirals, it is thanks to MPP and the availability of quality generic medicines for both adults and children. We are looking to MPP for the future and hope that affordable generic treatments will soon be available in our country for HIV related co-infections such as TB and other non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes."

"Better access to medicines against HIV and other diseases is critical to ensure people in low- and middle-income countries continue to receive quality and effective care in the current context", said Dr. Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid. "In addition, MPP's expertise provides a proven, useful model that can be used to contribute to making promising treatments against COVID-19 available and affordable".

In April 2020, MPP's Governance Board decided to broaden its mandate to include all health technologies that can help in the fight against COVID-19.

"In mid-November, 20 generic manufacturers entered into a ground-breaking open pledge initiated by MPP to ensure sufficient capacity and accelerate access to hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 treatment when they become available. The pledge is a first-of-its-kind bringing generic manufacturers together in a global response," said Charles Gore, MPP's Executive Director. "Our ten years of experience of working hand in glove with industry and global health partners along with our achievements to date reaffirms our commitment to ensuring no one is left behind."