‘Sovaldi’: Expensive yet a Definite Cure for Hepatitis C

On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, there is good news for the patients suffering from Hepatitis C. Well the sure shot yet expensive formula to cure Hepatitis C from the root has been manufactured by a US firm known as ‘Gilead Science’s’ . Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) is the first hepatitis C-specific polymerase inhibitor, this oral drug costs around $1000 a pill. Although there are so many controversies shaping up for the over the sky-scrapping prices being quoted for the medicine , Indian patients have already started importing the medicines from countries like Canada, in some cases, for upto Rs. 1 crore.

The drug, Sovaldi, is believed to have cured around 90% of patients with the common form of Hepatitis C virus with genotype 1, 2, 3 or 4 infections, including those with hepatocellular carcinoma (awaiting liver transplantation) and those with HCV/HIV-1 co-infection. However, with $84,000 for a 12 week long course, it has already instilled a concern in the senators of many countries including U.S.A as well. People all over the world are questioning about the company generating enormous profits on the backs of patients.

As per the recent reports, around 20-25 patients in India are already on Sovaldi, with some 150 patients already having the prescription. The imported drug comes at a price of Rs.15 lakh per month, taking the cost upto Rs. 45 to 50 lakh to complete the three month course. If sources are to be believed, Gilead has started enrolling patients for clinical trials in 10-15 centers in India.

Last December, the drug was approved by the U.S.A. Food & Drug Administration. Of late, Gilead Sciences also applied for multiple patents in India on Sofosbuvir, which has been opposed by the civil society groups.

“We anticipate seeing the first results by the end of 2015. Prices for India have not been finalized, but considering the GNI per capita of India and the burden of disease, we would expect the country to fall into our lowest pricing tier of approximately $300 per bottle.,” Gregg Alton, executive V-P (corporate and medical affairs), Gilead Sciences informed the press.

A Malaysian based patient ‘Mahesh Keswani’, who is in the third week of treatment, says he imported medicine from Canada after a US-based doctor wrote him a prescription.

“Patients can import these products after taking a personal permit against the prescription of a qualified doctor when existing treatment options have been exhausted,” says Praveen Sikri of Ikris Pharma Network, a firm which connects patients with overseas suppliers.

Doctors in Mumbai,Delhi and Bangalore have already started prescribing the pill. “Any person who has received blood transfusion before 2002 carries the risk of hepatitis C virus and should get a simple blood test done,” said Shah.

As per the estimation of the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 12 million Indians are chronically Hepatitis infected, with a majority not knowing their status. Around 30 to 50 percent of patients will require this new treatment.

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