July 20, 2007
The consumer advocacy group Public Patent Foundation (PPF) said Wednesday the US Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to consider its petition concerning whether Gilead Sciences should have been granted patents for its AIDS drug Viread (tenofovir).
The foundation filed the petition in March, claiming that the patents should not have been issued because key facts about the composition of Viread had previously been made public.
Daniel Ravicher, PPF's executive director, said if the federal agency were to invalidate the patents, other companies could seek permission to produce Viread, making it cheaper and more widely available. Currently, a 30-day supply of Viread can cost more than $1,000. "Tenofovir is an extremely important treatment," said Ravicher.
A spokesperson for Gilead, which uses tenofovir as a key component in its other HIV drugs Truvada and Atripla, said the company is not concerned about the petition. "We believe this is a technical matter that we'll be able to resolve," said Amy Flood. "We don't believe it threatens the substance of our intellectual property protection for Viread or our other HIV products."
The patent office receives 450 to 500 such challenges annually, said spokesperson Brigid Quinn. Of these, it agrees to review about 90 percent and completely invalidates the patents in 12 percent of cases. A review takes, on average, 21 months.