In February 2009, Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that GSK would slash the prices of its medicines in low-income countries, and, more surprisingly, raised the idea of a patent pool, where holders of intellectual property rights would share discoveries in order to stimulate neglected diseases research (Lancet, 2009; McNeil, 2010). The announcement generated cautious praise from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, the latter suggesting that GSK has emerged as the ‘most innovative’ pharmaceutical company to tackle the persistent problem of how to encourage the private sector to pour R&D funding into diseases that have little market value, as most sufferers are unable to afford the cost of treatments.
Staff at MSF welcomed the announcement – but stressed a number of problems. First, GSK refused to endorse the possibility of pooling patents for HIV drugs, still...
This special issue emerged from a two-day symposium on ‘The Ethics and Politics of Neglected Disease Research,’ on 8–9 December 2008, funded and hosted by the Brocher Foundation in Geneva. The guest editors would like to thank the Brocher Foundation, and the Editorial Board of BioSocieties, for their support.
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