GSK and Pfizer launch joint HIV venture, ViiV Healthcare

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The pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer announced today that the joint venture created by the merger of their HIV divisions is called ViiV Healthcare. The deal was first announced in April, and aims to improve the two companies’ position in the HIV market by cutting costs, sharing research and combining sales operations.

The new company has a 19% share of the global drugs market, in comparison to Gilead’s 31%.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will initially control 85 per cent and Pfizer the remaining 15 per cent of the shares, with the proportions rising or falling depending on the relative success of the two companies’ drugs.

Glossary

paediatric

Of or relating to children.

fixed-dose combination (FDC)

Two or more drugs contained in a single dosage form, such as a capsule or tablet. By reducing the number of pills a person must take each day, fixed-dose combination drugs may help improve adherence.

investigational

In medicine, a drug that is approved by the regulatory authorities (Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency) for testing in clinical trials, but not yet approved for commercial marketing and sale. Also called experimental drug, investigational agent, and investigational new drug (IND).

phase I

The first stage of human testing of a new drug or intervention, typically involving a small number (10-100) of participants who do not have the condition the drug is intended to treat. Phase I clinical trials evaluate safety, side-effects, dosage and how a drug is metabolised and excreted in the body.

phase II

The second stage in the clinical evaluation of a new drug or intervention, in which preliminary data on effectiveness and additional information about safety is collected among a few hundred people with the disease or condition.

The company has a portfolio of ten licensed anti-HIV products, plus seven investigational drugs in phase I and phase II clinical trials. The licensed drugs include GSK’s combination pills Combivir (AZT and 3TC) and Kivexa (abacavir and 3TC). Pfizer’s sole licensed anti-HIV drug is the CCR5 inhibitor, maraviroc (Celsentri).

The company says that their research will not solely focus on creating new molecules, but will try to develop new formulations that are easier to adhere to, including paediatric fixed-dose combinations.

Dominique Limet, the new chief executive, told Reuters that “Our intent is to look at what we can do with the portfolio we get from Pfizer and Glaxo to build new combinations which will completely transform the way we treat HIV.”

The company also states that it is committed to broadening access to medicines around the world and maintaining GSK’s Positive Action programme, which supports community projects.

“Much of our historic effort has been led by the virus – a chase of science,” Limet commented. “This must continue, but we must also listen and better understand the needs of people living with HIV.”