British drugmaker GSK has signed deals with three companies allowing them to make inexpensive generic versions of its long-acting HIV preventive medicine for use in lower-income countries, where the majority of new HIV cases occur.
The injected drug cabotegravir is approved by regulators in Britain and the United States. Last July, GSK announced a program with the United Nations-backed healthcare organisation, the Medicines Patent Pool, aiming to get poor countries access to new HIV therapies far earlier than they did for previous HIV medicines.
During the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Africa in the 1990s and early 2000s, in which many millions of people died, treatments used widely in wealthy countries were unavailable on the continent.
GSK said last year the new program could result in the generic form of its injection being available in lower-income countries beginning in 2026.
The drugmaker’s HIV treatment division, ViiV Healthcare, said in a statement on Wednesday it had issued voluntary licenses – waiving intellectual property rights – to Aurobindo, Cipla and Viatris, which will manufacture the generic versions of injectable cabotegravir.
The generic copies will be supplied in 90 countries, subject to regulatory approvals there, the statement said.
Indian drugmaker Cipla will make the injections in India and has plans to manufacture in South Africa, which is trying to grow its drugs manufacturing industry to meet the continent’s needs and reduce dependency on imports that was exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective way for an at-risk HIV-negative person to reduce the risk of infection. But until recently, PrEP was only available in pill form. GSK’s product is the first non-pill option.