Merck recently signed an agreement with The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to license intellectual property relating to pediatric formulations of its integrase HIV drug, raltegravir (Ral) (the 'Agreement'). The Agreement is alleged to clear the way for cheaper formulations for use in developing and some middle income countries and allows for the development of novel pediatric formulations of Ral as well as novel combinations. Merck's license is royalty free and under the terms of the Agreement, manufacturers anywhere in the world who meet the quality assurance criteria, can manufacture and sell pediatric versions of the drug in the licensed countries under the agreed conditions without paying a royalty to Merck. The Agreement covers at least 92 countries and MPP reports that 98.1% of children with HIV in the developing world live in the included countries. The Agreement has been criticized as a public relations exercise. The article asks if the criticism is justified and explores several aspects of the Agreement in addressing the question.
Keywords: access to HIV medicines; medicine patent pool; merck; raltegravir.