Via MSF.org, a March 27 news release: MSF joins Europe-wide action challenging patent on key hepatitis C drug. Excerpt:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has today filed a patent challenge on the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir with the European Patient 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.