[Ip-health] EU nations join forces against 'exorbitant' hepatitis C drug

Claire Cassedy claire.cassedy at keionline.org
Wed Jul 16 06:58:40 PDT 2014


EU nations join forces against 'exorbitant' hepatitis C drug

July 10, 2014 3:34 PM

Paris (AFP) - France said Thursday it has joined forces with 13 other
European countries to negotiate a lower price for a promising new hepatitis
C drug that has drawn controversy for its astronomical cost.

Sovaldi, made by US pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences, has shown huge
potential at helping cure the liver disease but its price -- more than
50,000 euros ($68,000) for a 12-week course of treatment -- has health
authorities concerned.

"If we accept such a high price, firstly we won't be able to treat everyone
and we will also be creating a risk for our social security system, which
means for other patients," French Health Minister Marisol Touraine said

She told BFMTV that Sovaldi would cost the country's already
heavily-indebted welfare system billions of euros.

"So I launched an initiative... to mobilise all European countries and make
sure we join forces to weigh on price negotiations with this US laboratory.

"For the first time, 14 European countries have made a commitment together.
We will therefore negotiate country by country as that's how it's done, but
we will exchange information and discuss things between European countries."

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that can be transmitted through sharing
needles, receiving contaminated blood transfusions or having sex with an
infected person.

Some 350,000 people die of hepatitis C-related liver diseases annually, and
as many as four million people are newly infected each year, according to
the World Health Organization.

Most of the 185 million people infected worldwide do not know they have the
disease, with diagnoses often only discovered after a person develops
cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or liver cancer.

There is no vaccine for the disease, but Sovaldi, recently approved in the
United States and the European Union, has been shown to cure more than 90
percent of those treated, up from 50 to 60 percent for the previous
generation of drugs.

Results published in January of a clinical trial that involved 211 people
showed that a daily combination of Sovaldi and another drug still in the
experimental phase cured 98 percent of participants.

Dozens of medical associations in France have issued a joint warning over
the "exorbitant" cost of new generation hepatitis C drugs, including

Medecins du Monde says the cost of treating just over half of France's
230,000 sufferers would amount to the annual budget of Paris' public
hospital network.

Egypt, which has the world's highest infection rate of hepatitis C -- at
more than 10 percent of the population, because syringes are routinely
re-used -- has negotiated a 12-week treatment price of just $900 from

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