More than 95% of all HIV-infected people now live in the developing world, which has likewise experienced 95% of all deaths to date from AIDS. Most of these deaths occurred among young adults who would normally be in their peak productive and reproductive years.
In developed countries, the introduction of highly active antiretroviral treatment and the availability of drugs for opportunistic infections and malignancies (PCP, cytomegalovirus disease, herpes, tuberculosis) led to a substantial reduction in AIDS mortality. In developing countries, however, access to these drugs is seriously lacking.
Several interrelated factors determine access to essential drugs, including drugs to treat HIV and opportunistic infections. Among them are appropriate use, supply management, economic issues, drug selection, legislation and regulation, manufacturing, research and development decisions. A number of WHO Member States have expressed the opinion that affordability is a major factor contributing to lack of access to drugs.
As HIV/AIDS is quite recent in medical history, most of the drugs created especially to treat HIV infection are proprietary (i.e. under patent). This renders the treatment less affordable than drugs for which generic alternatives exist. Since patent protection allows exclusive rights to an invention and prevents generic competition, it is one of the possible reasons for limited availability and affordability of drugs.
As for drugs to treat or prevent opportunistic infections and malignancies, a number of anti-infective agents (foscarnet, itraconazole, fluconazole, etc) needed by people living with HIV/AIDS also remain under patent in many countries.
Therefore, the question whether a drug is under patent protection is of significant importance for drug procurement. The present document assesses the patent situation of HIV/AIDS related drugs in countries for which data are available. Data for some countries are difficult to get, and as this field is in constant evolution, the data are indicative. When planning procurement, it is recommended to check the patent status locally, i.e. at the patent office of the country where the drug will be used.