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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
GLOBAL: Fight for Cheap Drugs Shifts from AIDS to New Hepatitis Pills
By Reuters
December 17, 2013
Fox News (12.16.2013)

Fox News reported that the recent approval of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment Sovaldi would trigger an international battle for low-cost access, similar to earlier disputes over access to generic HIV/AIDS drugs. Manufacturer Gilead Sciences priced Sovaldi at $1,000 per day. Experts expect the drug to transform treatment because some HCV patients would be able to take a single Sovaldi pill daily, eliminating the need for interferon injections, which could cause severe flu-like symptoms. At current prices, Sovaldi treatment would cost $84,000 for a 12-week regimen. Thomson Reuters Pharma has estimated that 2018 sales of Sovaldi would total $6.8 billion. Gilead paid $11 billion in 2012 to acquire Pharmasset, the company that developed Sovaldi. Other companies developing all-oral HCV drugs included Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck & Co. World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan urged drug makers to find options to maximize the drug’s use in resource-limited countries. Since HCV was most prevalent in middle-income countries like China, India, and Russia, drug companies were reluctant to accept options such as granting licenses to low-cost generic drug manufacturers. New York-based legal group Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK) has filed suit to allow patenting of Sovaldi in India, so that a cheaper generic form could be available. Founder of I-MAK Tahir Amin stated that the cost of the 12-week treatment regimen should be below $500 to encourage governments to start buying the drugs. Andrew Hill, a pharmacologist at the University of Liverpool, estimated that large-scale production of the drug could cost only $1 per day, which would result in a price of $100–$250 for the 12-week regimen. Gilead has argued that its current price was fair because of the drug’s benefits, but would release plans for low-cost access early in 2014.

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