Every once in a while comes a discovery that brings about a seismic change. And every once in a while, also comes a business decision that enhances the seismic effect. One such discovery was the drug sofosbuvir, approved in late 2013 by the US regulator for treating Hepatitis C. It was the first time a drug could ‘cure’ this deadly, but silent, viral infection. Gilead Sciences sized up the windfall and priced it at $1000 a pill, the total treatment tab amounting to $90,000. The whiplash against the offensively high pricing was global but in India, the mood of generics drug makers was somewhat combative.
Breakthrough or backbreaking?
On the trail of Gilead’s $1000-pill
You have at least 8-10 million people with Hepatitis C in India; you are leaving behind 10-15% difficult-to-treat patients, and you have new infections of this silent killer every year. Yet you can eradicate it, like Polio. Because there’s a drug. So, what’s next?
Gilead’s voluntary license to Indian generic makers for sofosbuvir three years ago, brought down the price from $1000 a pill to $10, and then to $3 a pill. Leading doctors believe it’d hit $1/pill soon
Many manufacturers have decamped. The remaining ones believe just reducing the price will not wipe out this virus which can remain dormant for as long as 20 years, eating away the liver
Doctors are advocating a ‘recall policy’ on one hand and a national programme on the other. Both require resources for diagnostics and drugs. A PIL towards this is now accepted in the Delhi High Court
By the time Gilead’s voluntary license comes up for renewal in two years, would drug companies, government and Indians be moving towards Hep C eradication?