His announcements build on commitments unveiled in February aimed at expanding access to medicines and encouraging new research into diseases that disproportionately affect the worldâs poorest countries.
The new initiatives focus primarily on the care and treatment of children with HIV/AIDS. More than two million children live with HIV/AIDS, almost all of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the vast majority of children being infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission.
Speaking at the Positive Action Zingatia Maisha HIV programme in Kibera, Kenya, Mr Witty said: "Despite progress that has been made over the past few years, the treatment of children with HIV/AIDS remains a significant unmet medical need.
Firstly, we must do a better job at preventing HIV in children. Today we are announcing a new "Positive Action for Children" Fund which we will support with up to Â£50 million over 10 years. This Fund will be for NGOs and others who work to prevent mother-to-child-transmission and who work with orphans and vulnerable children.
Secondly, GSK should use its strength and expertise as a research-based company to find and develop new medicines. We will therefore make available Â£10 million as seed money to support a new public private partnership approach for paediatric HIV research.
In addition to fostering research, we are also setting out new commitments to increase access to HIV medicines in collaboration with other companies. This includes developing new fixed-dosed combination treatments for adults and children, and extending our voluntary licensing policy to include abacavir.
Our objective for Africa is clear - to make existing medicines as widely available as possible while at the same time ensuring sustained investment into R&D for a new generation of medicines."
The new targeted measures GSK will pursue are designed to improve the availability of HIV medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa. These are:
- New 'Positive Action Children Fundâ - GSK intends to invest up to Â£50 million available over 10 years to form the âPositive Action for Children fundâ. The investment will support NGOs and others working with pregnant mothers to try and prevent mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the developing world with a particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. The fund will also be used to help vulnerable children who have been orphaned as a result of parents dying from HIV and AIDS.
- Â£10 million seed funding to support a Public Private Partnership approach aimed at researching and developing more ARVs for children - With more than two million children living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, there is a clear case for dedicated funding targeted at developing new paediatric formulations and medicines. GSK will therefore make available an initial Â£10 million for a partnership with other private and public sector bodies to address both the R&D and access challenges associated with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- New commitment to seek collaborations with other companies to research and develop fixed-dosed combinations (FDCs) - GSK is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of its portfolio to establish the technical feasibility and medical benefit of developing new combination treatments with other medicines currently available for HIV treatment.
- GSK will extend its existing Voluntary Licensing Policy to include abacavir - A new voluntary licence has been agreed, on a non-exclusive basis, with South Africa based Aspen Pharmacare Ltd for the manufacture of abacavir. GSK will not charge royalties for this voluntary licence, in an effort to help reduce prices further.
- GSK's commitment to HIV - These new commitments complement existing measures that GSK implements to improve global access to HIV treatments, including our policy of not-for-profit pricing for HIV medicines for those countries most in need. GSK granted its first voluntary licence (VL) for ARVs in 2001 and has now negotiated eight licensing agreements for our ARVs in Africa. Our licensees supplied 279 million tablets of their versions of Epivir and Combivir to Africa in 2008. This represents more than 50 per cent growth over 2007, and 130 per cent more than in 2006. We welcome this trend as it gives customers in sub-Saharan Africa greater choice and contributes to better security of supply.
In April 2009, GSK and Pfizer announced an innovative agreement to create a new, world-leading specialist HIV company focused on delivering significant improvements in treatment and access. It also brings renewed focus on HIV with an industry-leading pipeline to deliver new HIV treatments. Today's announcement is an indication of the commitment that the new company will bring to fighting HIV/AIDS in the world's poorest countries.
The new company will continue GSK and Pfizer's strong record of access initiatives and community support for HIV. GSKâs long-standing Positive Action programme will transfer to the new company, maintaining a focus on prevention, tackling stigma and discrimination, and building capacity and treatment literacy within the global community. Since 2002, GSK has conducted 65 partnership projects across 63 countries and the new company will continue to invest in Positive Action.
Mr Witty is in Kenya and has lived and worked in Africa, running GSK's business in South Africa in the 1990s. He made these announcements at the Zingatia Maisha HIV programme (meaning "Carefully Consider Life") in Kibera, which is located in the outskirts of Nairobi. Kibera is the largest slum in Africa and is similar in size to New York City's Central Park, about 1.5 square miles. With a population of more than 1 million people, the population density is 30 times that of New York City. Most people living in Kibera have little or no access to basic necessities such as electricity, clean water, toilet facilities and sewage disposal. There are approximately 50,000 AIDS orphans surviving in Kibera, often cared for by grandparents or in overcrowded orphanages.
The Zingatia Maisha programme operates in the middle of Kibera, and provides peer-group support for people living with HIV and AIDS, encouraging good nutrition and educating about treatment adherence. GSKâs Positive Action provides funding for the programme in partnership with a consortium of organisations including AMREF, The Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation and the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
GlaxoSmithKline - one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies - is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. For further information please visit www.gsk.com.