Pharma accused of restricting access to hep C drug in poor countries

New drugs for hepatitis C are a major breakthrough but hugely expensive in rich countries. Pharma giant Gilead will allow cheap copies to be made for poor countries - but only for patients with proof of identification and citizenship and the drug supplies will be closely tracked

The battle over access to the new hepatitis C drug, Gilead’s sofosbuvir (and similar drugs coming along behind) is hotting up. There is angst even in the richest countries over the $1000 a pill price tag. It now looks as though Gilead is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that cheaper versions, which it is permitting generic companies to make for poor countries, do not arrive in affluent world pharmacies.

Gilead has agreed to grant voluntary licences to eleven Indian generic companies, which means the drug will be sold at a reduced price in low-income countries. But Médecins Sans Frontières, the volunteer doctors who are treating hepatitis C infection in some of the poorest regions, say the company has imposed unacceptable conditions.

Gilead stipulates that patients will only get the drug if they can provide identification, proof of citizenship and residency, which MSF says will penalise refugees and marginalised communities. The drug supplies will be closely tracked through codes on the bottles. Gilead, even though it will not be the manufacturer, will have access to that information. If they need more, patients will have to return an empty bottle.


Labels: , , ,