TAC, SECTION27 and MSF Applaud India’s Rejection of Patent on New Hepatitis C Medicine

JOHANNESBURG, Tuesday 20th January: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SECTION27 applaud India’s decision to reject a patent application on sofosbuvir, an important new treatment for Hepatitis C. Last Wednesday’s decision paves the way for increased access to more affordable sofosbuvir in India and other countries who choose to implement legal flexibilities available under international law to increase access to the drug. However, existing patents on sofosbuvir in South Africa could block access to the cheaper generic versions that will become available due to the ruling.  The government should therefore urgently finalise the national intellectual property policy to allow South Africa to better protect access to medicines.

Rejection of the patent in India will allow generic manufacturers that have not already signed restrictive licensing agreements with Gilead to produce sofosbuvir at much lower prices than currently available. Research conducted by Dr Andrew Hill at the University of Liverpool, for example, suggests that sofosbuvir can be profitably produced for as little as $102 (R1,182) per 12 week course.

However, patent protection in South Africa prevents open competition, and could block generic versions of sofosbuvir and other new HCV drugs from reaching the domestic market. The same sofosbuvir patent rejected in India was granted in South Africa, and will only expire in 2025. South Africa has also granted multiple ‘secondary’ patents on sofosbuvir, with the latest patent only expiring in 2034. If reforms proposed in South Africa’s draft intellectual property policy are implemented, the number of such secondary patents granted will be dramatically reduced.


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