August 5, 2013 / 6:43 AM / 6 years ago

Roche adds HIV blindness drug to patent pool, cutting price

LONDON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Roche is to slash the price and pool intellectual property rights on a drug to treat a viral infection that can cause blindness in people with HIV.

The move is a further victory for the new Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which is trying to convince major drugmakers to share rights to important medicines for the developing world with makers of cheap generic drugs.

The agreement will make Roche’s oral drug valganciclovir for cytomegalovirus, or CMV, up to 90 percent cheaper in 138 developing countries. The Swiss drugmaker will also enter into licensing and technology transfer negotiations to encourage the development of cheap generic versions of valganciclovir.

Currently, the most widely used treatment for CMV in developing countries requires injections directly to the eye, which can be painful and also difficult to administer.

CMV affects around one in 10 people living with HIV in low-and middle-income countries.

The deal between Roche and the patent pool, announced by the two organisations on Monday, follows earlier agreements covering drugs to treat HIV made by Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare, which is majority-owned by GlaxoSmithKline.

The MPP is a United Nations-backed group that was launched in 2010 by the UNITAID health financing system.

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