Friday, February 21, 2014

UPDATING: Médecins Sans Frontières Criticizes Merck's "Zen" Raltegravir (Isentress®) License Deal With Cipla -- Not Likely To Be Cheap Enough

The French version of "Doctors Without Borders", called "Médecins Sans Frontières" (MSF) in the native tongue -- has registered strong condemnation of the Merck-Cipla "Zen" solution (to "nationalized" cheap access licenses) in India. MSF believes that the "authorized" generic structure of the deal still precludes other generic competitors from entering, and thus the deal will prevent robust price competition, they say. MSF is looking for 90 percent price cuts -- off of the $5,000 a year Isentress® (raltegravir) costs in country -- and MSF now implores the world to believe it when it says that won't happen without multiple generic launches. So, overnight here, it is urging the Indian ministry authorities to keep raltegravir on the list for consideration as a compelled license drug in India.

We shall have to wait and see, here. From, in India, then -- a bit -- but do go read it all:

. . . .The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has termed the license deal between the US pharmaceutical firm Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cipla for the HIV medicine raltegravir a ploy to prevent the Indian ministry of health from recommending a compulsory licence on this drug.

It appears that Merck is signing this deal to prevent the ministry of health from recommending a compulsory licence for public non-commercial use of raltegravir to the ministry of commerce, which would allow open generic competition on the drug. Raltegravir is on the list of patented drugs a committee constituted on compulsory licensing in the ministry of health is looking into. . . .

“The licence deal between Merck and Cipla is a huge disappointment because it does not allow for generic competition among multiple producers that could lead to the dramatic 90 per cent price decreases we’ve seen for other HIV medicines in India and other developing countries. India’s Ministry of Health should still pursue a compulsory licence on raltegravir to allow broad competition so that truly affordable generic versions of this drug are available to people across the developing world”, said Leena Menghaney, Campaign Coordinator, MSF Access Campaign, India. . . .

It will be interesting to see whether the ministry of health, and commerce officials keep Isentress on the list -- for study as a compulsory license drug. We will keep an eye on this, as you might imagine -- as it could easily be material to Merck, if the Indian authorities nationalize the drug, anyway -- in spite of what I've styled "the Zen compromise". [My backgrounder, here.]

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