Around 3.4 million children are living with HIV worldwide but World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate that only 562,000 of them have access to medicines. Barriers preventing further scale-up of the numbers of children on treatment include the lack of lowcost medicines that are suitable for children. According to Viiv Healthcare, this new partnership grants the MPP a voluntary licence for paediatric formulations of the antiretroviral medicine abacavir in 118 countries.
This can only be good news given the scope of the licence and the potential to reach the vast majority of children living with HIV. However the agreement focuses on low income countries and there is still considerable unmet need in middle income countries (MICs) where the HIV epidemic risks gaining new legs precisely because international donors and stakeholders are beginning to focus their efforts elsewhere.
The Medicines Patent Pool was founded by the innovative financing mechanism UNITAID, based at the World Health Organization, to lower the cost of HIV medicines through licensing of key HIV patents and promote the development of needed formulations, such as medicines for children. We are now waiting to see if the other major pharmaceutical players like Johnson and Johnson and Abbott Laboratories will follow in Viiv’s footsteps to offer a lifeline to people living with HIV wherever they are in the world.
The cost and availability of antiretroviral therapy remains a key challenge that requires all of us to play a part if we are to reach the global commitment to get 15 million people on treatment by 2015. With only 28% of children who are eligible receiving the treatment they need compared to 58% of adults, this big step in the right direction by Viiv and the MPP will hopefully begin to address such a gap.