Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pharma giant moves toward sharing

Sarah Boseley, Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world's poor, The Guardian, February 13, 2009.

The world's second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world.

In a major change of strategy, the new head of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has told the Guardian he will slash prices on all medicines in the poorest countries, give back profits to be spent on hospitals and clinics and most ground-breaking of all share knowledge about potential drugs that are currently protected by patents. ...

He said that GSK will: ...

  • Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a "patent pool", so they can be explored by other researchers. ...

The extent of the changes Witty is setting in train is likely to stun drug company critics and other pharmaceutical companies ...

Comment. The changes are stunning. It's a remarkable about-face from an industry that has been perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the sanctity of patents. In the news so far, there's no word of any information that will become OA (in our sense) that wasn't previously, but it may be an indicator of a willingness to experiment with sharing, even in fields that were previously most resistant.

Update. See also this follow-up from The Guardian (thanks to Thiru Balasubramaniam):

... Transparency is a major issue. Witty has pledged to publish all clinical trial data, whether positive or negative - and be open about GSK's payments to doctors. ...