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J&J Won’t Enforce Patents on HIV Medicine in Africa

Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest maker of consumer health products, will let generic-drug companies make and distribute copies of its HIV medicine Prezista in sub-Saharan Africa and poor countries.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, won’t enforce patent claims against drugmakers that copy the pill. Prezista, or darunavir, is an antiretroviral medication that’s used to treat the immune system-destroying virus, in combination with other anti-viral drugs.

Last year, J&J sold $1.21 billion of Prezista, making it the company’s sixth best-selling drug. The agreement says that generics manufacturers can only distribute the medicine for patients living in the African and least-developed countries. About 34.2 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, including 22.9 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

“Intellectual property should not be a barrier to ensuring a sustainable supply of medically acceptable darunavir in the world’s poorest countries,” Paul Stoffels, J&J’s worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals, said in a statement today.

Prezista is used in patients who’ve already been on and failed other HIV treatments because the virus becomes resistant to them. Today’s statement didn’t identify specific countries subject to the agreement.

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