After Roche linked up with the Medicines Patent Pool on its cytomegalovirus drug Valcyte, two leading charities have welcomed the move but called for even broader access to medicines for poorer countries.

The supply agreement will make Valcyte (valganciclovir) up to 90% cheaper in 138 developing and emerging countries than it is currently available. CMV is a viral infection that can result in loss of vision and greater risk of death in people with HIV and affects around one in 10 people living with the disease in low-and middle-income countries.

The deal has two stages: first up, Roche will make Valcyte more affordable and then will explore licensing and technology transfer to local generics drugmakers.

In response, Oxfam GB’s senior health and HIV policy advisor, Mohga Kamal-Yanni, noted that blindness caused by CMV "is actually a neglected disease", so the Roche/MPP pact "is a step in the right direction in making this important medicine more affordable for people with HIV". She added that the deal should encourage other companies to submit their patents on key antiretrovials to the MPP" and "we hope that the announcement opens the door for generic competition which is the sure way of decreasing medicines prices".

Dr Kamal-Yanni went on to say that "whilst big pharmaceutical companies’ main interests lie in protecting their profit margins, there is a huge moral argument for them to give licences for affordable versions of their HIV medicines, given the fact there are still nearly seven million people globally living with this deadly disease who get no treatment at all".

Over at Medicins Sans Frontieres, Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for the charity's access campaign, said he appreciates the price reduction negotiated by the MPP for valganciclovir, "which is the best treatment for the disease". However, he adds that "for there to be broad and affordable access to the drug, we need more than just the originator company reducing its price – we need competition among multiple generic producers".

Mr Malpani went on to say that "price discounts can’t replace generic competition, which is the best way to bring prices down to sustainably affordable levels". MSF believes "the MPP’s strength and added value lies in increasing generic competition for critically-needed drugs by negotiating public health-focused voluntary licences, which we trust will remain the Pool’s focus in the future".