March 24, 2009 / 1:49 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Glaxo shares 800 patents, cuts prices to help poor

* Patents available to others researching neglected diseases

* Move covers 16 tropical diseases, but not HIV/AIDS

* Company cutting prices on 110 products in LDCs by 45 pct

(Adds detail, background)

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) will share more than 800 drug patents with others hunting new cures for neglected tropical diseases, in an unusual departure for an industry famous for protecting its intellectual property.

The world’s second-largest drugmaker also said on Tuesday it was cutting the cost of 110 patented medicines — for a range of conditions from malaria to asthma — by an average of 45 percent from next week.

The British-based group announced the moves in its annual corporate responsibility report, following a pledge by Chief Executive Andrew Witty in a speech at Harvard last month to do more to help the developing world. [ID:nN133064]

The $800 billion-a-year global pharmaceutical industry has come under increasing pressure in recent years to help close the gap in access to medicines between rich and poor, particularly in Africa.

That has resulted in leading companies offering a series of deep discounts for drugs to treat AIDS and other diseases.

The creation of a free patent pool to spark development of new medicines for tropical diseases takes things a step further, though Glaxo has stopped short of offering up its patents on drugs for HIV/AIDS, which it does not consider to be a neglected disease.

So far, Glaxo is the only big drug company to have made a commitment to pool its intellectual property in this way, but Witty hopes others will follow suit.

His company will place more than 500 granted patents and about 300 patent applications — together relating to 80 different therapeutic approaches — in the new patent pool.

It is also open to requests from researchers for access to other patents and know-how that may help in the development of new treatments against tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, dengue and a dozen other diseases.

At the same time, Glaxo is reducing the price of 110 products across Least Developed Countries by an average of 45 percent, with effect from April 1.

A spokesman said the reductions would cover a wide range of patented products, such as its top-selling asthma treatment Advair/Seretide and Malarone, a drug for malaria. (Editing by Will Waterman)

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