[Ip-health] MSF joins Europe-wide action challenging patent on key hepatitis C drug

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Mar 27 01:14:57 PDT 2017

*MSF joins Europe-wide action challenging patent on key hepatitis C drug*

*Patent opposition aims to increase affordable access to hepatitis C drug
sofosbuvir for millions*


Rome/Geneva, 27 March 2017 – The international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has today filed a patent
challenge on the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir with the European Patent
Office (EPO) in an effort to increase access to affordable hepatitis C
treatment. MSF has joined Médecins du Monde (MdM) and other civil society
organisations from 17 countries in simultaneously filing patent challenges
on the pharmaceutical corporation Gilead’s monopoly on sofosbuvir, in a bid
to remove the barriers that prevent millions of people receiving treatment.

“With an estimated 80 million people worldwide living with hepatitis C,
treatment should be available to everyone who needs it, no matter where
they live – including in Europe”, said Dr Isaac Chikwanha, Hepatitis C
Medical Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign. “The price of sofosbuvir is
keeping treatment out of reach for millions of people who need it, and
treatment is being rationed or is just unavailable across the globe,
including in many of the countries where MSF works, such as Russia, and
many other middle-income countries including Thailand and Brazil. A drug
that cures doesn’t do any good if the people who need it can’t afford it.”

Sofosbuvir forms the backbone of most hepatitis C combination treatments
for people, one of a range of oral ‘direct-acting antivirals’ to come to
market within the last four years that has caused cure rates to skyrocket.
In Europe, Gilead charges as much as US$59,000 per 12-week sofosbuvir
treatment (€55,000) – in the United States, Gilead initially set the price
at $84,000, or a staggering $1,000 per pill. Meanwhile, studies have shown
that it costs less than $1 per pill to produce the drug.

“Gilead’s patent monopolies on sofosbuvir are blocking access to affordable
hepatitis C treatment, including generic versions, in many countries
including those in Europe”, said Aliénor Devalière, EU Policy Advisor for
MSF’s Access Campaign. “This patent can – and should – be challenged; the
science behind sofosbuvir isn’t new.”

Access to affordable medicines has become a global challenge. Countries
where Gilead retains monopoly control over sofosbuvir cannot import or
produce generic versions; for many people living in some middle-income
countries, Gilead’s restrictive voluntary licensing agreements still keep
sofosbuvir out of reach for people and their governments. Patent challenges
– or patent oppositions – can remove or shorten the length of a patent and
enable the robust generic competition needed to dramatically reduce prices.
Key patents on sofosbuvir have already been revoked in China and Ukraine,
and decisions are pending in other countries, including Argentina, India,
Brazil, Russia and Thailand.

“Successful patent oppositions have created access to life-saving drugs for
millions of people in the past, and are now being employed as a legal
measure to improve access to hepatitis C treatment,” said Yuanquiong Hu,
Legal Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign.  “MSF has filed or supported
patent challenges in many countries. People all over the world, and in the
projects where MSF works, need affordable access to life-saving medicines.”

If the patent challenge is successful, it could accelerate the availability
of affordable generic versions of sofosbuvir in Europe.  It would also
encourage all countries to take measures to open up access to affordable
generic versions of sofosbuvir by either negotiating better deals with
Gilead right now, and/or taking actions including issuing compulsory
licences to import or manufacture more affordable generics.

- ends –

Note: Copies of these patent oppositions will be available on the Patent
Oppositions Database (an online resource for groups and individuals wanting
to challenge patents on medicines):


*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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