J&J welcomes generic versions of HIV drug

 Johnson & Johnson has said it will not enforce patents on its HIV drug Prezista (darunavir) in Africa and other poor regions of the world.

The decision will ensure that many patients have access to cheaper generic versions of the drug.

However, J&J insists that generic darunavir must be of high quality, and reserves the right to enforce its patents if this is not the case.

The company has declined to join the new Medicines Patent Pool, which aims to accelerate generic drug production.

J&J came second in the Access to Medicine Index 2012, which scores major pharmaceutical companies on the access to their drugs in poorer countries – seven places higher than its 2010 placing.

Multiple generic manufacturers will now be able to produce generic darunavir for sale in sub-Saharan Africa and other ‘least developed countries’.

The drug is a second-line therapy for patients who have developed resistance to the standard antiretroviral drugs. Demand for it in Africa is increasing rapidly.

Paul Stoffels, J&J’s Head of Pharmaceuticals, said that competition between generic manufacturers would drive down the price of darunavir.

Indian pharmaceutical companies would be particularly quick to bring out generic versions of the drug, he predicted.

Stoffels defended the decision to stay out of the Medicines Patent Pool: “We want to reserve the right to reinforce patents if people are not providing the right quality of product, for example by bringing products to market that under-dose.”