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Over the past two decades, public health officials and patient advocacy groups have pushed the pharmaceutical industry to widen access to medicines to low and lower-middle-income countries. To date, there has been a modest effort, including licensing deals that let generic companies produce less-expensive versions of mostly infectious disease drugs. Now, a new initiative will attempt the same goal for cancer treatments.

The Union for International Cancer Control — a collection of hundreds of organizations that work with governments and companies — announced the launch of the Access to Oncology Medicines Coalition, or ATOM. The plan is to tap the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed agency, to encourage brand-name drug makers to voluntarily license rights to generic companies to make and sell cancer drugs. ATOM, meanwhile, will work with governments to speed regulatory processes and help to create the infrastructure for providing treatments. We spoke with Melissa Rendler-Garcia, a senior global advisor at UICC, about the effort. This is an edited version of our conversation. 


Before we get into the details, tell us a little about UICC…

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