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Parting Shot

But there have also been highs, and many see Witty as one of pharma’s good guys – increasing access to medicines in the developing world, for example, by capping the price of GSK’s patented medicines in “least developed countries” (LDCs) at no more than 25 percent of developed world prices, and reinvesting 20 percent of any profits made in LDCs back into training community health workers in those countries.

In a similar vein, GSK recently announced that it will not file for patent protection in Least Developed and Low Income Countries. They will also seek to grant licenses to generic manufacturers to supply versions of GSK medicines in “lower middle income countries”.

“The changes we are setting out aim to make it as clear and simple as possible for generic manufacturers to make and supply versions of GSK medicines in LDCs, LICs (lower income countries) and most LMICs,” said Witty in a press release (1). “Implementation of these proposals will be subject to local laws… GSK will now consult with its licensing and co-development partners on these changes.”

Additionally, GSK outlined its intent to commit its future portfolio of cancer treatments to patent pooling and will explore the concept with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to help address the increasing burden of cancer in developing countries. The MPP has been used to accelerate access to HIV, TB and hepatitis C medicines in low and middle income countries through voluntary licensing arrangements. GSK now say they want to expand this approach to oncology – enabling generic versions of GSK’s immuno-oncology and epigenetic therapies, currently in clinical development, to be made available in LDCs, LICs and certain middle income countries, if and when they receive regulatory approval.

The move has drawn considerable praise from industry critics, including the head of Knowledge Ecology International, Jamie Love. “Sir Andrew Witty has shown exceptional leadership, and we look forward to the implementation of this ambitious set of initiatives,” he said in a separate press release (2).

“Changes to patents and IP systems will not solve the multi-faceted challenges of improving healthcare in developing countries,” said Witty. “However we believe the measures outlined today add to the wider contribution GSK makes to improve access to effective healthcare around the world.”

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  1. GSK, “GSK expands graduated approach to patents and intellectual property to widen access to medicines in the world’s poorest countries,” (April, 2016).
  2. Knowledge Ecology International, “KEI statement on GSK’s announcement of policies to expand access to patented medicines,” (March, 2016).
About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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