Towards a Patent Pool for HIV Medicines: The Background

Michelle Childs*
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Médecins Sans Frontières, Rue de Lausanne 78, P.O. Box 116, CH-1211, Geneva 21, Switzerland

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© Michelle Childs; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Médecins Sans Frontières, Rue de Lausanne 78, P.O Box 116, CH-1211, Geneva 21, Switzerland; Tel: + 41 22 849 8405; Fax:+41 22 849 8404;


Recent WHO guidelines for antiretroviral therapy recommend switching to less toxic, but more expensive medicines for first-line and second-line ART, raising questions about the financial sustainability of many AIDS treatment programmes. At the same time, many key generic producing countries such as India now grant pharmaceutical product patents so competition between multiple manufacturers will not be able to play the role it has in bringing down the price of newer drugs.

Overcoming these patent barriers will require a range of solutions, such as restricting patentability criteria, or compulsory licensing. One additional systematic solution is provided by the patent pool, a collective solution to the management of patent rights, initially presented by Médecins Sans Frontières to the French Foreign Ministry and subsequently the UNITAID Executive Board in 2006.

A patent pool must not be implemented at any costs, but answer medical needs, be based on economic realities and meet the access needs of the developing world, including middle-income countries.