[Ip-health] China rejects Gilead patent on hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir: MSF response

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Fri Jun 19 06:01:28 PDT 2015

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has learned that the Chinese patent office
has just denied Gilead Science’s request for a key patent on the hepatitis
C drug sofosbuvir. This drug, together with other antivirals, is the
backbone of several newer, more effective curative treatments for hepatitis
C, yet is exorbitantly priced in many countries, restricting access for
people who need it. Hepatitis C is a global public health crisis, with at
least 150 million people living with the disease, and 350,000-500,000
people die each year from complications of it.

The patent application was rejected following a pre-grant challenge filed
by the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK). A number of
additional challenges have been filed on patent applications for
sofosbuvir, including in India, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, Brazil and at
the European Patent Office by different parties. Key patents on sofosbuvir
have already been rejected in both Egypt and India.

China is the world’s single largest source of active pharmaceutical
ingredients (raw materials) for all medicines. There have been limitations
on the use of the raw material for sofosbuvir because of patent barriers.
There is increasing capacity for China to produce finished products for
drugs and vaccines, and with decision to reject the secondary patent on
sofosbuvir, there is greater potential for generic sofosbuvir to enter the
Chinese market earlier.

MSF is in the process of starting to scale-up treatment of hepatitis C,
with plans to expand treatment in nine countries.  MSF is currently
treating people with sofosbuvir in Pakistan.

*MSF response quotes:*

 “China’s rejection of a key patent on sofosbuvir goes to show that there
are serious questions about whether this drug merits patenting, and sends a
strong signal to other countries that are currently reviewing patent
applications for the drug.  China could prove to be an important supplier
for the raw materials as well as the finished product of sofosbuvir.  Increased
competition from manufacturers in China could help push the price of
sofosbuvir down, so that more people can access it. We hope that other
countries where Gilead is seeking patents for sofosbuvir are watching

*Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy & Analysis, MSF Access Campaign*

“This is good news for people with hepatitis C, and will hopefully lead to
more people in developing countries being able to access low-cost versions
of sofosbuvir. Gilead’s exorbitant pricing is preventing people from
getting the treatment they need in both rich and poor countries. A cure for
hepatitis C does nobody any good if nobody can afford it.”

*Dr. Jennifer Cohn, Medical Director, MSF Access Campaign*


Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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