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Johnson & Johnson Refuses To Share Critical AIDS Medications With World

gay blog, gay news, aids, hiv, medicine, medicines patent pool, patients
Shame on Johnson & Johnson!

Pharmaceutical juggernaut Johnson & Johnson is accused of blocking access to life-saving medications for AIDS victims in developing countries (Re: no money) around the world. J&J holds patents to three medications that it refuses to grant to the Medicines Patent Pool, which is credited with treating 6 millions AIDS patients around the globe.

J&J’s motivation to block access to its patents is entirely financial. Pharmaceutical companies don’t spend millions of dollars researching and developing medications that don’t turn a profit, after all. However, most would argue that the company has a moral obligation to man the F up and help save the lives of those that are dying without access to the J&J medications in question.

For what it’s worth, Johnson & Johnson is a multi-BILLION dollar company, with Warren Buffet alone said to own more than a billion dollars in stock. The water and electric men aren’t exactly going to shut off the company’s utilities if they offer the poor and suffering international victims of AIDS these medications for free or reduced prices.

Doctors Without Borders throws down the gauntlet:

Johnson & Johnson, which holds patents on three key new HIV drugs desperately needed throughout the developing world, has so far refused to license these patents to the Medicines Patent Pool. The Pool has been set up to increase access to more affordable versions of HIV drugs, including fixed-dose combinations that include multiple medicines in one pill, and to develop much-needed pediatric HIV drugs.The Pool would license patents on HIV drugs to other manufacturers and the resulting competition would dramatically reduce prices, making them much more affordable in the developing world. However, since the Pool is voluntary it will only work if patent holders like Johnson & Johnson choose to participate.

Even at Johnson & Johnson’s so-called reduced “access” pricing, the cost of these drugs is prohibitive; darunavir is priced at $1,095 per patient per year, and etravirine at $913 per patient per year in the world’s least-developed countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Many developing countries have to pay even higher prices.

In December 2010, the National Institutes of Health, which holds the intellectual property rights for a manufacturing process for darunavir, put its patent for the AIDS drug in the patent pool. Johnson & Johnson holds the drug’s remaining patents, and is effectively blocking other companies from manufacturing and making darunavir available at prices affordable for patients in the developing world.

Johnson & Johnson is literally the only company holding out on these patents and preventing the Medicines Patent Pool from ensuring the production and distribution of these drugs.

“We have patients who have no other treatment options other than Johnson & Johnson’s darunavir, which is so expensive that the South African government cannot afford it,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, medical coordinator for MSF programs in South Africa and Lesotho. “MSF is now paying for these drugs, but this is just the beginning of the problem. Ten years after we put the first patients on antiretroviral treatment, we now have patients in our clinics who have become resistant to drugs available at affordable prices. We’ll soon be back in a situation where we’ll have to say there are drugs in the private sector, or in rich countries, that could treat you, but we cannot afford them.”

The behavior by this company is absolutely deplorable. Even if they eventually relent, it is unconscionable that the world has to shame Johnson & Johnson into doing the right thing here. Lives are at stake!

Via Doctors Without Borders

  • Big Pharma: At it’s own special level in Hell.

  • Trenton Flock

    One more entry in the sordid history of pharmaceutical profiteering. In 1998, 39 drug companies, including Pfizer and J&J, started a 3-year legal battle against South Africa for using unauthorized low-cost versions of their patented medications. They dropped their suit in 2001, only after enormous public outcry and a charge led by Nelson Mandela. I believe that was the origin of Patents Pool, and as you can see, 10 years later they are reeeally struggling to turn a profit…

    Poor J&J… I sure hope that their destitute executives don’t come down with something extremely fatal and incurable. That would be so sad…

  • Anonymous

    For shame, Unicorn Booty and Kevin Farrell. The MSF press release covering this issue is undeniably biased and editorializing it without any further research is journalistically irresponsible.
    There is no cure for AIDS, and considering the genetic structure of the HIV strains there probably will never be. There are, however, dozens of drugs that help prevent infection, treat symptoms, and prolong life that are on the market or are being developed by several research organizations and companies worldwide. Developing safe, effective drugs can take decades of research, hundreds of people, and billions of dollars. The three drugs discussed in the above article, rilpivirine, darunavir, and etravirine, were/are being developed by Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. They are merely three of the -twenty-three- drugs on the Medicine Patent Pool list of target medicines. This list even includes “drugs that are not yet available on the market, or those that are still under development”. By no means is Johnson and Johnson cruelly withholding some sort of magic cure that would save the lives of every AIDS sufferer on the planet. The three J&J drugs Kevin Farrell’s article targets are a second-generation protease inhibitor and two second-generation non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. These are currently cutting-edge and yes, EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE to design and manufacture. They also represent only two of the dozens of prospective strategies for improving the quality of life of AIDS sufferers.
    The MSF press release mentions that J&J already offers two of their drugs at “access pricing” and is quick to point out that these prices are still prohibitive for most people, but it fails to mention that this means J&J is already making these drugs available to developing nations for ONE TENTH of their market price. Private companies cannot continue to finance AIDS research if they are unable to make any kind of profit. No amount of moral indignation or empathy for AIDS sufferers can change the fact that the creation and testing of these drugs in the first place was an enormous investment of money. Attacking or prohibiting companies that fund this research from selling drugs –at market price- will only discourage the development of novel treatments. And that benefits no one.
    Furthermore, these drugs have been FDA approved for -less than five years-. Their efficacy and safety have not yet been thoroughly investigated. Indeed, the two oldest are known to cause debilitating side effects such as diabetes, toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, organ dysfunction, and hepatic failure. Pushing for widespread distribution of them at this stage may very well prove to be irresponsible and unethical.

  • Anonymous

    For shame, Unicorn Booty and Kevin Farrell. The MSF press release covering this issue is undeniably biased and editorializing it without any further research is journalistically irresponsible.

    There is no cure for AIDS, and considering the genetic structure of the HIV strains there probably will never be. There are, however, dozens of drugs that help prevent infection, treat symptoms, and prolong life that are on the market or are being developed by several research organizations and companies worldwide. Developing safe, effective drugs can take decades of research, hundreds of people, and billions of dollars. The three drugs discussed in the above article, rilpivirine, darunavir, and etravirine, were/are being developed by Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. They are merely three of the –twenty-three– drugs on the Medicine Patent Pool list of target medicines. This list even includes “drugs that are not yet available on the market, or those that are still under development”. By no means is Johnson and Johnson cruelly withholding some sort of magic cure that would save the lives of every AIDS sufferer on the planet. The three J&J drugs Kevin Farrell’s article targets are a second-generation protease inhibitor and two second-generation non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. These are currently cutting-edge and yes, EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE to design and manufacture. They also represent only two of the dozens of prospective strategies for improving the quality of life of AIDS sufferers.

    The MSF press release mentions that J&J already offers two of their drugs at “access pricing” and is quick to point out that these prices are still prohibitive for most people, but it fails to mention that this means J&J is already making these drugs available to developing nations for ONE TENTH of their market price. Private companies cannot continue to finance HIV research if they are unable to make any kind of profit. No amount of moral indignation or empathy for AIDS sufferers can change the fact that the creation and testing of these drugs in the first place was an enormous investment of money. Attacking or prohibiting companies that fund this research from selling their drugs –at market price– will only make the development of novel drugs completely unfeasible in the private sector. And that benefits no one.

    Farrell’s claim that “Johnson & Johnson is literally the only company holding out on these patents and preventing the Medicines Patent Pool from ensuring the production and distribution of these drugs” is the clearest indicator of his lack of understanding of these issues. These drugs have been FDA approved for –less than five years–. Their efficacy and safety have not yet been thoroughly investigated. Indeed, the two oldest are known to cause debilitating side effects such as diabetes, toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, organ dysfunction, and hepatic failure. Pushing for widespread distribution of them at this stage may very well prove to be irresponsible and unethical.

  • Is the issue really a single company looking out for their bottom line? Or is it the fact that our society, in general, places such an emphasis on profit even in social institutions like health care?

  • TC Wilson

    I applaud you for your level of knowledge/willingness to research this subject so thoroughly.