Merck & Co has inked a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool for its HIV drug Isentress (raltegravir) to be used for children.

This is the first time the US drugs giant has done a licensing deal with MPP, a United Nations-backed funding agency which is part of the World Health Organisation. It means that generic manufacturers and other companies based anywhere in the world can develop, manufacture and sell low cost, paediatric versions of Isentress in 92 countries with the highest burden of disease, where 98% of children with HIV in the developing world live.  

The agreement comes just two months after MPP signed a licence with AbbVie for paediatric versions of lopinavir and ritonavir.

The WHO recommends Isentress as a component of paediatric third-line treatment and its current availability as chewable tablets and granules for oral suspension “could potentially ease implementation in paediatric programmes”, MPP says.

The agency notes that of the 3.2 million children with HIV/AIDS, only 760,000 children received antiretrovirals (ARVs) in 2013. Each day 700 children are newly infected and 500 children die of HIV/AIDS-related causes.

MPP now has 12 ARVs in its portfolio through partnerships with Gilead and ViiV, as well as with Merck and AbbVie.