In a bid to expand access to an HIV prevention drug, the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool and pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare have announced a new voluntary licensing agreement that would allow for generic manufacturing and distribution for a long-acting preventive treatment for HIV.
Selected generic manufacturers will be able to produce and supply generic versions of the drug - recently approved by the US health authorities - in a total of 90 countries, most of them in Africa.
Tenu Avafia, Deputy Executive Director, UNITAID says the agreement covers patents on Cabotegravir, an injectable form of antiretroviral drug used in pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP), a preventive treatment for HIV-negative people.
“This new innovation and highly effective option – we hope – will allow people who are at greater risk of HIV to use a technology that is most suitable for their particular needs and their situations. This includes adolescent girls and young women, and key populations, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, and in some cases, people who use drugs...”
The treatment is currently approved for use in HIV prevention only in the U.S., where it received its first regulatory approval in December 2021. It’s reportedly priced at $3,700 per injection, which is unaffordable for many low- and middle-income countries.
More than 70% of new HIV cases occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2020. However, in many countries, problems with treatment monitoring and stigma have limited their impact in some vulnerable populations, Unitaid points out.