Firm will supply cheap drugs and allow generics in developing countries

A five-year agreement between Roche and Unitaid’s Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) will make more antiviral drugs available at knock-down prices in developing countries.

Roche has agreed to supply Valcyte (valganciclovir) at a discount of up to 90% in 138 designated countries, to treat patients with cytomegalovirus as a complication of HIV. The agreement also allows for third parties to license Roche’s valganciclovir patent and develop generic versions of the drug after one year of exclusive sales.

Cytomegalovirus can cause blindness in HIV patients, whose immune systems are weakened. Current treatment is by multiple injections to the eye. MPP hopes that affordable access to the much more convenient valganciclovir tablets could significantly reduce the virus’s impact.