Drug manufacturers are now free to make cheaper duplicates of Prezista, the Johnson & Johnson's HIV/AIDS, for sale in Africa and other less developed countries. J&J has allowed the manufacture of cheaper versions of the recently developed drug, provided high quality standards are maintained by drug makers.
Prezista is used when patients suffering from HIV/AIDS stop responding to their continuing therapies, following development of resistance to the existing anti-retroviral drugs. With a large number of AIDS patients in under-developed countries like Africa, this situation was expected to arise.
J&J expects the move to escalate competition among drug manufacturers, further leading to a fall in the price of the medicine. Indian medicine manufacturers are expected to benefit most from this; while those hoping on sharing intellectual property rights with J&J for the medicine may feel disappointed.
Many drug makers were hoping to get J&J to share the intellectual property rights to the drug, under the Medicines Patent Pool. The pool calls for all companies to share patents, aiming at generic production of new drugs.
The AIDS drug is already being manufactured and made available in Africa by South African group, Aspen Pharmacare at a negligible cost of $2.22 a day, under an existing deal between the two companies.
Commenting on the move to go direct, J&J's pharmaceuticals head, Paul Stoffels said:
"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."
In a recent performance analysis assessing the access to medicines that companies provide, J&J has moved seven places upwards to rest at the second position now. The improvement was seen post its acquisition of vaccine maker Crucell.