Glaxo tells Blair to press G8 for patents reform

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The Independent Online

GlaxoSmithkline, the UK's largest pharmaceuticals company, has written to Tony Blair to demand new tax credits and patent concessions to encourage the development of medicines for the world's poorest countries.

GlaxoSmithkline, the UK's largest pharmaceuticals company, has written to Tony Blair to demand new tax credits and patent concessions to encourage the development of medicines for the world's poorest countries.

The company is also urging the Prime Minister to use Britain's presidency of the G8 group of industrialised nations to strengthen global agreements on intellectual property rights.

The Government has said it will put the healthcare problems of Africa among its priorities for the G8 presidency, which begins in January. But GSK's letter highlights the difficulties of getting compromises in this area, and sets the scene for another showdown with non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam.

GSK, which produces some of the leading HIV treatments, proposes a system of "transferable exclusivity" for patents, where the development of a drug for a developing world disease is rewarded by an extension of patent protection for a developed world medicine.

This would, in effect, mean Western governments paying more for their most commonly used drugs to help subsidise medicines in poorer countries.

Jean-Pierre Garnier, GSK's chief executive, said the international community must find ways to incentivise the pharmaceuticals industry to produce life-saving medicines for tropical diseases where companies would not otherwise invest. GSK's letter also suggests the G8 adopt tax credits for developing world disease research and a fast-track approval process for tropical disease medicines.

Michael Bailey, senior policy adviser at Oxfam, said the G8 must not bow to industry pressure on the rigid enforcement of patent rights.

Meanwhile, GSK is poised to drop work on its drug Avandia as a possible treatment for psoriasis, the skin complaint.

Separately, a BBC programme this week will accuse GSK of backing drugs trials in the US in which underpriviliged children were forced to test Aids treatments against their will.

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