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MSF Challenges GSK’s Contract Clauses for Access to Apretude

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization, has been diligently working to secure access to ViiV Healthcare’s innovative long-acting HIV prevention drug, Apretude, for over a year. In a bid to expand the reach of its HIV franchise, ViiV Healthcare, a subsidiary of GSK, has been in discussions with MSF regarding the supply of Apretude.

However, MSF has recently expressed its concerns through an open letter directed at ViiV’s executive team, shedding light on issues arising during the negotiation process. The organization is urging ViiV to reconsider certain new clauses introduced in the proposed purchase agreement that have raised red flags.

Sidney Wong, the executive co-director of MSF’s access campaign, along with Philip Aruna, the team leader for MSF’s southern Africa region, authored the letter. They revealed that discussions between the two parties had been ongoing since June of the previous year. In December, a tentative agreement had been reached, but ViiV modified the terms due to limitations in the drug’s supply. This unforeseen alteration has led to frustration on the part of MSF.

Notably, the new clauses added to the agreement have caused concern. MSF argues that these clauses, which mandate confidentiality for factors such as pricing, have transformed the proposed contract into something resembling a nondisclosure agreement. Furthermore, MSF officials point out that the revised contract permits ViiV to easily terminate the supply arrangement, a feature that MSF finds troubling.

In response to these concerns, MSF has formally requested ViiV to remove the problematic clauses and resume negotiations by the end of the current month. In parallel, ViiV has acknowledged the ongoing negotiations and emphasized its commitment to facilitating access to Apretude in the swiftest manner possible. A spokesperson from ViiV informed Fierce Pharma via email that they are in close collaboration with MSF to address the contract-related matters.

Médecins Sans Frontières is renowned for its global efforts to provide essential medical care to individuals in crisis-stricken regions around the world. As part of its advocacy, the organization has consistently held pharmaceutical companies accountable. In the past, MSF successfully pushed Johnson & Johnson to broaden access to its tuberculosis drug Sirturo. The organization has also been vocal in its criticism of vaccine pricing strategies adopted by GSK and Pfizer.

Meanwhile, ViiV Healthcare took a step towards enhancing access to Apretude by signing a separate agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool in July of the preceding year. This agreement granted specific generic manufacturers the rights to produce alternative versions of Apretude for distribution in 90 lower-income countries.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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