[Ip-health] The Guardian : Doctors challenge hepatitis C drug patent in price protest

Céline Grillon celine.grillon at medecinsdumonde.net
Tue Feb 10 05:22:39 PST 2015


Doctors challenge hepatitis C drug patent in price protest
Healthcare body takes action against pharmaceutical giant Gilead’s monopoly over $1,000-a-pill Sofosbuvir drug

Doctors in France are challenging the patent of a new and highly expensive drug for hepatitis C in an attempt to bring down the price.

Sofosbuvir, costs $1,000 a pill for a 10-week course. The drug, made by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, is a cure for the viral infection that can lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer and death.

Even for affluent countries the bill is huge. In England, approximately 160,000 people are infected while globally, between 130 million and 150 million people are estimated to be infected, according to the World Health<http://www.theguardian.com/society/health> Organisation.

Recently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended that the drug should be available on the NHS, but granted NHS England a six-month delay. The bill is expected to reach £1bn for every 20,000 people treated.

Médecins du Monde , a non-governmental organisation that provides healthcare for vulnerable people around the world, is challenging Gilead’s monopoly on the drug at the European Patent Office. If it wins, generic drug companies would be able to make cheap copies of sofosbuvir. There has already been a challenge in the Indian courts on other grounds, which Gilead lost, but the company is appealing. A challenge by a medical organisation in Europe is unprecedented.

“We are defending universal access to healthcare: the struggle against health inequality involves safeguarding a healthcare system based on solidarity,” said Dr Jean-François Corty, MdM’s French programmes director. “Even in a ‘rich’ country like France, with an annual medicines budget of €27bn, it is difficult to meet this cost. We are seeing an arbitrary rationing approach that excludes patients from care, and this is unacceptable.”

The NGO is challenging on two grounds. It argues that Gilead did not take “an inventive step” in developing the drug, because the real breakthrough was by researchers at Cardiff University at an earlier stage. It also says Gilead is claiming a more extensive patent than it originally filed in March 2007.

Olivier Maguet from Médecins du Monde said the challenge would send a strong message to developing countries, where there are many cases of hepatitis C and the drug is unaffordable. “Until now they have been on their own,” he said. The move “will give a lot of energy to countries in the south”.

Céline Grillon
Harm Reduction, HCV & HIV
Advocacy Officer /Chargée de plaidoyer
Réduction des Risques, VHC et VIH
celine.grillon at medecinsdumonde.net<mailto:celine.grillon at medecinsdumonde.net>

Médecins du Monde
62 rue Marcadet 75018 PARIS
t. + 33 (0) 1 44 92 13 02
m: + 33 (0) 6 50 01 39 10

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