Our objective with this campaign expand access to two crucial antiretroviral (ARV) compounds: Efavirenz, and Raltegravir via their inclusion in the Medicines Patent Pool. Our goal was to pressure Merck (that patent holder) into negotiations with the Patent Pool. When a pharmaceutical company holds an exclusive patent, no other company can produce the drug at a lower (and more affordable) cost. Competition from generic production benefits the patients by pushing down the cost on both ends, thus improving overall access. The Medicines Patent Pool offers a mechanism for achieving just that in developing countries. Patent holders can voluntarily submit their patents to the pool. The patents are then granted to legitimate and qualified generic producers. The patent holder receives appropriate royalties from the sales of the generics, and the price is significantly cut, thereby improving access for those most in need. Despite the Patent Pool benefiting both the patient and patent holder, Merck had not, and still has not, entered into negotiations on its crucial ARVs. And so it stands against the prevailing cooperative mood of other pharmaceutical companies that have joined in active negotiations, including Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Viiv Healthcare. The Pool has already obtained licenses from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Gilead, but Merck stubbornly refuses to bring its lifesaving medicines to those most in need.
Recently, HAC again teamed up with the Harvard branch of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines to put pressure on Merck to enter into negotiations with the Patent Pool. We held a series of demonstrations outside their Boston Office, and met with top officials in Merck about expanding their access policies. Merck has still refused to enter in negotiations with the Medicines Patent Pool, and we will continue to meet with them and put on the pressure.