October 10, 2002
In legal action presented to the Central Intellectual Property Court, three people living with AIDS and the local Foundation for Consumers claimed the patent on the drug Videx EC should be deregistered. If the patent is withdrawn, other companies could produce generic versions of the drug more cheaply. The plaintiffs argue that Videx is not the company's innovation, but merely a combination of an antacid and the active ingredient didanosine or ddI -- for which the company holds no patent. Bristol-Myers developed Videx after licensing ddI from the US National Institutes of Health. It claims Videx can be patented because it increases the drug's effectiveness by including a buffering agent.
Kamol Uppakaew, a plaintiff in the latest case and a leader of the Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, said it was well known that antacids should be taken with ddI in order to reduce stomach acidity and help the body absorb the drug. A Bristol-Myers spokesperson in the United States said last week that the company was committed to providing affordable AIDS drugs in the developing world.
Last week health activists won a minor legal victory when the Central Intellectual Property Court ruled invalid part of the patent on Videx. The court's ruling that Bristol-Myers' patent covers only pills containing between 5 and 100 milligrams of ddI paved the way for other drug makers to market pills with dosages above 100 milligrams.