Glaxo pools 800 patents, cuts drug prices for poor

LONDON, March 24 Tue Mar 24, 2009 1:01pm GMT

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LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) will share more than 800 of its patents with others seeking to develop new medicines for neglected tropical diseases and slash the cost of many of its drugs in poor countries from next week.

The world's second-largest drugmaker announced the moves on Tuesday in its annual corporate responsibility report, following a pledge by Chief Executive Andrew Witty in a speech at Harvard last month to do more to help the developing world.

The $800 billion-a-year global pharmaceutical industry has come under increasing pressure in recent years to help close the gap in access to medicines between rich and poor, particularly in Africa.

That has resulted in leading companies offering a series of deep discounts for drugs to treat AIDS and other diseases.

The creation of a free patent pool to spark development of new medicines for tropical diseases takes things a step further, although Glaxo has stopped short of offering up its patents on drugs for HIV/AIDS, which it does not consider to be neglected. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Michael Kahn)

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