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20 February 2017, 10:16
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Civil society groups challenge patents on Hepatitis C medicines

Civil society groups challenge patents on Hepatitis C medicines - picture 1

Civil society groups in India and Argentina have filed five new challenges to patents on Hepatitis C drugs. If successful, these challenges would make Hepatitis C drugs affordable for millions of patients by enabling the production and distribution of generic versions of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medicines such as sofosbuvir, daclatasvir, and velpatasvir.

In India, two patent challenges on daclatasvir, one on velpatasvir, and one on sofosbuvir were filed by the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK) and the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) and supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In Argentina, the Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (FGEP), supported by I-MAK, filed a patent challenge on sofosbuvir.

Petitioners argue that, by obtaining patents and blocking competition from generic drugs, pharmaceutical companies like Gilead are abusing the more than 80 million people worldwide living with Hepatitis C.

“By systematically applying pressure to remove patent and regulatory barriers that stand in the way of production of more affordable generic versions of direct-acting antiviral medicines used to treat Hepatitis C, civil society and vulnerable communities have already supported the introduction of generic competition in India and Egypt, where prices dropped to below USD $300 per 12-week treatment last year,” said Leena Menghaney, head of South Asia for MSF’s Access Campaign.

While millions of patients in India cannot afford the generic treatments licensed by current patent-holders Gilead and BMS, millions more in wealthier countries are barred from legally purchasing the generics now produced in India and Egypt. Petitioners argue that challenging the current patents will create the conditions for a sustainable supply of low-cost, high-quality Hepatitis C drugs.

Author: Lilia Ten

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