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Gilead allows generic prices for Sovaldi

Published on 16/09/14 at 11:36am
Sovaldi image

Gilead will allow Indian generic drug firms to make cheap copies of its new hepatitis C pill Sovaldi in an effort to make it more affordable for the poor.

The US firm says that seven Indian drugmakers, including Ranbaxy and Cipla, will be able to manufacture and sell Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) for $900 for a full course of treatment.

The drug costs around $1,000 a day in the US, which amounts to $84,000 for 12 weeks of treatment. When other medicines that are necessary to the treatment are factored in, this in fact rises to nearly $100,000 for a full course regimen. This means that Indian prices will be around 1% of that being paid in the US.

Under the terms of the deal the Indian firms will be able to sell the medicine on to 91 developing countries, but Gilead has said that some of the Indian drugmakers would be free to set their own prices for the drug without any limits.

The companies are to pay 7% of their revenues as royalty to Gilead, which will provide full technology transfer to the Indian manufacturers, allowing them to produce both the active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished formulations.

Around 185 million people globally are believed to be suffering from hepatitis C, which can lead to fatal liver disease, and the greatest numbers are in low and middle-income countries. Sovaldi is currently the best hep C drug on the market with effective cure rates of around 90 per cent.

Gregg Alton, executive VP and medical affairs at Gilead, says: “Hepatitis C is a significant public health issue worldwide, and Gilead is working to make its chronic hepatitis C medicines accessible to as many patients, in as many places, as quickly as possible.

“In developing countries, large-volume generic manufacturing and distribution is widely regarded as a key component in expanding access to medicines. These agreements are essential to advancing the goals of our humanitarian program in these countries.”

Gilead adds in a statement that the countries within the agreement account for more than 100 million people living with hepatitis C, representing 54% of the total global infected population.

Price still high, countries missed out

But it is not going to every emerging market, and international doctors’ group Medicines sans Frontières (MSF) has questioned why the same deal has not been made for other countries with high hep C rates – such as Brazil, China and the Ukraine. MSF also adds that the price being offered will still be too much for many Indians.

Gilead has come under ceaseless attack from groups such as MSF, US insurers and even US politicians in recent months for the price of its medicine, currently one of the highest in the world for a non-orphan drug or biologic.

But factors such as its price and the high global number of hep C patients has seen it have the best launch of any drug in history, making nearly $6 billion in its first two quarters this year.

Subhanu Saxena, chief executive of Cipla, says that the deal in fact shows that drugmakers have learned the lessons of past controversy over pricing of HIV drugs in the 1980s. “The pharmaceutical industry [understands] the need for affordable access across the globe. Some companies have understood this better than others.”

The other India-based generic drugmakers involved in the deal are Cadila Healthcare, Hetero Labs, Mylan Laboratories, Sequent Scientific and Strides Arcolab.

Ben Adams 

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