On the side lines of the World Cancer Congress, the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) today announced the signing of a voluntary licencing agreement with Novartis AG to increase access to nilotinib, a twice daily oral medication used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), part of the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines (WHO EML) for treatment in adults and children of at least one year of age.
Through this agreement, selected generic manufacturers will have the opportunity to develop, manufacture and supply generic versions of nilotinib in the licenced territory, subject to local regulatory authorisation.
In particular, the licence includes seven middle-income countries, namely Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia, where patents on the product are pending or in force.
This is the first licence that MPP has signed for a cancer treatment, and the first time a company is licencing a patented cancer medicine through a public health-oriented voluntary licencing mechanism.
While there has been tremendous progress in new technologies to treat cancer, major challenges persist in many low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) that face inequity in access to new-generation cancer medicines which could allow patients to live better and longer.
Advances in treatment, such as nilotinib, have contributed to a greatly improved prognosis for people diagnosed with CML.
Charles Gore, MPP Executive Director, said, “Access to high-quality cancer medicines is a crucial component of the global health response to the cancer burden, therefore I am delighted to be signing our first licence agreement with Novartis for a much-needed cancer treatment in LMICs.
Although the remaining patent life is relatively short, this voluntary licence in the non-communicable disease space sets a vital precedent that I hope other companies will follow.”
Lutz Hegemann, President of Global Health and Sustainability, Novartis said, “We’re proud to be pioneering this new licencing model with MPP in collaboration with the ATOM Coalition, but we know too that making a medicine available is only one part of the challenge to increase access to cancer treatments. For generic versions of this medicine to reach those who need it, wherever they live, the right diagnostics and quality of care will be critical. That’s why we’ve helped to build the new Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, and we will be relying on the support of our partners from research, non-profits and the private sector to help deliver on the promise of this initiative.”
Zeba Aziz, Medical Oncologist at Hameed Latif Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan, and member of MPP’s Expert Advisory Group said “Nilotinib is a second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor that offers a great alternative to people who are resistant or intolerant to imatinib, the first-line treatment, that is at least 20% of cases. I am glad more people in LMICs will have access to this essential cancer medicine.”
Benedikt Huttner, Secretary of the WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines, said “Cancer medicines constitute a large proportion of medicines recommended by WHO on the Model Lists of Essential Medicines. Nilotinib is an essential cancer medicine for adults and children with imatinib-resistant CML. We welcome this licence agreement, the first for cancer medicines. We hope this marks the start of a paradigm shift with more pharmaceutical companies following suit with licence agreements for essential patented cancer medicines to help ensure that patients globally can benefit.”
In May 2022 Novartis and MPP joined the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition .
It is a new global initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and its partners to improve access to essential cancer medicines in low-and lower-middle income countries, and to increase the capacity for diagnosing cancer and for the proper handling and supply monitoring of these medicines.
Through MPP, the Coalition facilitates affordable access to cancer treatments through non-exclusive licences to generic manufacturers for selected products and countries.
Nilotinib was added to the WHO EML and EMLc respectively in 2017 and 2019 as second-line therapy for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia that is resistant to imatinib.
Source: Medicines Patent Pool