European activists demanded that EPO withdraw Gilead's patent for sofosbuvir
Six nongovernmental organizations appealed the September decision of the European Patent Office (EPO) support a patent for the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences for a key drug for the treatment of hepatitis C sofosbuvir.
The appeal filed by Médecins du Monde (MdM), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), AIDES (France), Access to Medicines Ireland (Ireland), Praksis (Greece) and Salud por Derecho (Spain), states the EPO should revoke the Gilead patent, since the latter does not meet the requirements for inventions, either from a legal or a scientific point of view.
The appeal of the activists was timed to the fifth anniversary of the launch of sofosbuvir on the US market, when Gilead valued it at $ 1,000 per pill and $ 84,000 for a 12-week course.
According to experts, since the beginning of December 2013, the corporation has earned more than $ 58 billion from the drug and its derivatives (combinations, including sofosbuvir).
In March 2017, civil society organizations from 17 European countries appealed the Gilead patent for sofosbuvir, stating that intellectual property claims against the substance were not legal because it did not meet the criteria of the invention.
Gilead's monopoly on sofosbuvir in Europe allowed the corporation to set excessively high prices for the drug. In some European countries, the company receives 43,000 euros for a 12-week course of treatment, while the same amount of generic drugs outside the EU can be bought for less than 75 euros.
As the authors of the appeal emphasize, the extremely high prices for the drug forced most of the EU health systems to abandon the purchase of sofosbuvir, with the result that thousands of people with hepatitis C were left without innovative treatment.
At the same time, despite the convincing arguments presented by the organizations, on September 14, 2018, the European Patent Office decided to support the Gilead patent, thus making it impossible to produce cheaper and affordable versions of the drug in Europe.
The appeal of NPOs is aimed at eliminating systems where the largest pharmaceutical corporations defend their own profits in this way, including in countries outside Europe, where patent offices often follow EPO decisions.
As activists explain, today a number of new drugs that have received patents, for example, drugs for cancer treatment, are entering the market with a price tag reaching 400,000 euros per person. This, of course, makes you think about the need to reform patent systems.