Health Groups Worldwide Support Colombian Call for Compulsory License on Kaletra

An international coalition of over three-dozen patients’ and public health advocacy groups sent a letter today to representatives of the Colombian government, endorsing Colombian civil society groups’ recent request for an open compulsory license on AIDS medicine lopinavir/ritonavir (marketed by Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories under the trade name Kaletra). The coalition includes groups from six continents, and chapters of such public health stalwarts as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), Health Action International, Health GAP and ACTUP, as well as law programs, medical students and patients’ organizations.

Text of a news release about the letter, and the global sign-on letter itself, follow below.

For Immediate Release
August 6, 2008

International Coalition of Public Health Advocacy Groups Sends Letter to Colombian Government Supporting Kaletra Compulsory License Request from Civil Society

Patients’ groups and allies say open license for lopinavir/ritonavir would promote access to medicines for all

Contacts:
Peter Maybarduk, Essential Action
(at the IAC in México) +52 55 1902-1954
[email protected]

David Morales Alba, Comunicación Positiva
(en México) +52 55 2819-2970
[email protected]

Mexico City, Wednesday, August 6, 2008 — An international coalition of over three-dozen patients’ and public health advocacy groups sent a letter today to representatives of the Colombian government, endorsing Colombian civil society groups’ recent request for an open compulsory license on AIDS medicine lopinavir/ritonavir (marketed by Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories under the trade name Kaletra). The coalition includes groups from six continents, and chapters of such public health stalwarts as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), Health Action International, Health GAP and ACTUP, as well as law programs, medical students and patients’ organizations.

“Issuing a compulsory license in this case will help promote access to medicines for all,” wrote the groups. “Lopinavir/ritonavir is a key medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. The high price charged by Abbott, the patent holder for this medicine, constitutes a barrier to access and hinders efforts to make antiretroviral treatment available in Colombia to all who need it.”

On 16 July, 2008, an alliance of Colombian civil society groups filed a request for their government to issue an open compulsory license on the life-saving anti-retroviral drug lopinavir/ritonavir in order to enable access to generic versions of the drug, which will create competition and lead to more affordable prices. Several months earlier, on 7 April, 2008, Colombian civil society asked Abbott Laboratories directly to voluntarily license its patent, but to date, Abbott has not responded to the groups’ request.

“My government must not let its people die when there exists a simple, affordable solution to helping people with HIV/AIDS live normal lives,” says Francisco Rossi of Colombian NGO IFARMA-Health Action International.

The Colombian government is empowered under the WTO TRIPS Agreement and Andean Community rules to issue compulsory licenses, authorizing generic competition with patented medicines to protect public health, in exchange for a reasonable royalty to the patent holder.

“We stand with our Colombian civil society allies in calling for Colombia to utilize the TRIPS flexibilities available to them. We request that Colombian leaders move forward with this important method of protecting the public health of their constituents”, said Samantha Sitrin of ACTUP Philadelphia.

“The Colombian government must partner with patients, instead of with Abbott, following the example of the many countries that have issued compulsory licenses,” says Mary Carol Jennings from the American Medical Student Association. “This means making generic medications available at low cost to people whose lives depend on them.”

Kaletra currently costs the Colombian public sector approximately US$1683 per patient, per year, and prices for private health organizations reach $4449. Peru and Bolivia, by contrast, pay less than $800 for generic lopinavir/ritonavir. Through a recent accord with the Clinton Foundation, prices in the region could fall to $550. By issuing a compulsory license and allowing generics firms to compete with Abbott’s Kaletra, the Colombian government could save well over US$1million annually. Colombian civil society groups point out that these savings could be invested in scaling up HIV/AIDS treatment and strengthening Colombia’s health system.

Mesa de Organizaciones que trabajan en VIH/SIDA (en Bogotá)
* +57-1-338-4991 * [email protected] *

The civil society letter is pasted below:

To:
Doctor
ALVARO URIBE VELEZ
PRESIDENTE DE LA REPUBLICA DE COLOMBIA
E. S. D.

Doctor
GUSTAVO VALBUENA QUIÑONES
SUPERINTENDENTE DE INDUSTRIA Y COMERCIO
E. S. D.

cc:
Doctor
DIEGO PALACIO BETANCOURT
MINISTRO DE LA PROTECCION SOCIAL
E. S. D.

August 6, 2008

Dear Sirs,

We are organizations from around the world concerned about providing treatment to people with HIV/AIDS, ensuring all people have access to needed medicines, and promoting public health. We write in support of the July 16, 2008 Colombian civil society request for issuance of a compulsory license on the medicine lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra).

Under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and Andean Community Decision 486, Colombia is free to issue compulsory licenses to advance public interest objectives. The WTO’s Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health “affirm[s] that the [TRIPS] Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO members’ right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.”

Issuing a compulsory license in this case will help promote access to medicines for all. Lopinavir/ritonavir is a key medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. The high price charged by Abbott, the patent holder for this medicine, constitutes a barrier to access and hinders efforts to make antiretroviral treatment available in Colombia to all who need it.

A compulsory license for lopinavir/ritonavir in Colombia would allow the state to obtain and offer imported generics, as well as permit the local production of lopinavir/ritonavir. The result could be greater product availability for patients, robust competition, and savings for the state, which could be directed to other public needs.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment. We urge that you give all due consideration to this license request.

Sincerely,

Essential Action
P.O. Box 19405
Washington, D.C. 20036

Health Action International Asia-Pacific
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Austria

Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+)

American Medical Student Association
Washington, D.C.

ACT UP Paris

Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
American University, Washington College of Law
Washington, D.C.

Agua Buena Human Rights Association
San Jose, Costa Rica

Collaborative Fund for HIV Treatment Preparedness-South Asia

Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+)
New Delhi, India

The Youth Alliance For Rights
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India

CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES
CAMEROON

Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC)
Lusaka, Zambia

Good Health Educators Initiative
Ikotun, Lagos

The Group for Life Incentive
Sao Paulo, Brazil

ACT UP Philadelphia

Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India (FMRAI)
West Bengal, India

CHINAAIDSGROUP.ORG

Sambhavna Trust Clinic, Bhopal

Artists for a New South Africa
Los Angeles, CA, USA

All-Ukrainian Network of PLWHAs

Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center
San Francisco, CA

Network for ARV Users of People Living with HIV
Lusaka, Zambia

AIDS Action Now!
Toronto, ON M5P 2L2

Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)
Cambridge, MA, USA

Health GAP (Global Access Project)
Philadelphia, USA

Knowledge Ecology International
Washington, D.C.

HEPS Uganda (Coalition for Health Promotion and Social development)

European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG)
Brussels, Belgium

ACT UP Berkeley-Oakland, CA, USA

Health Action International (HAI) Africa

Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN)
BRUSSELS, Belgium

Network of Zimbabwean Positive Women (NZPW+)

Student Global AIDS Campaign
USA

Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, Mumbai, India
Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH)?
San Francisco, CA, USA

Phasuma
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

UK Student Stop AIDS Campaign
London, England