Implications of Patent Pools on Innovation Regarding Antiretrovirals§

Eric Noehrenberg*
Noehrenberg International Policy Consultancy, Geneva, Switzerland

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© Eric Noehrenberg; 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 Noehrenberg International Policy Consultancy, Geneva, Switzerland; E-mail:
§ Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are purely Dr. Noehrenberg’s own personal opinions and should not be seen as reflecting the positions of Dr. Noehrenberg’s present or past employers.


Patent pools have been promoted as an innovative means of promoting the production of fixed-dose combination antiretroviral medicines (ARVs), which can be particularly appropriate for resource-poor settings. An important question, however, is what are the implications of patent pools on innovation for creating new and improved antiretrovirals. Indeed, given the continuing mutation of HIV and growing resistance to existing treatments, continued innovation in ARV development is vital for addressing these challenges. Would patent pools be a hindrance or rather a stimulus for further innovation? This question is particularly relevant in light of UNITAID’s initiative to create a patent pool for ARV development, focusing on pediatric formulations and new combinations, by the end of 2009.

In this article, the author argues that a voluntary and well-designed patent pool, involving both innovative and generic manufacturers, focused on developing fixed-dose combinations for resource-poor markets with the greatest need, could actually stimulate increased innovation to meet these needs. Indeed, by bringing together the major ARV producers worldwide to collaborate on developing products which will meet the needs of the poorest, an ARV patent pool could create significant public health benefits. UNITAID has taken the lead in designing and implementing such a pool and UNITAID’s experience will have important lessons for policy-makers in the future.