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A GROUP of charities, led by Médecins Sans Frontières, is fighting to have a drug’s patent revoked by the European Patent Office. Sofosbuvir can cure hepatitis C in just three months, but costs up to €55,000 for a course of treatment.
“There are 80 million people in the world with hepatitis C, but only 5.4 million have access to the drug”
The drug’s patent is held by pharmaceuticals firm Gilead of Foster City, California, giving the company a monopoly over the drug in Europe.
“There are 80 million people in the world with hepatitis C, but only 5.4 million have access to sofosbuvir,” says Yuan Qiong Hu, legal adviser for MSF’s patent challenge. “Revocation of the patent would be a key step towards making generics available.”
Generic versions of sofosbuvir are already made in Egypt and India, and bring down the cost of a course of the drug to €185, but these aren’t available in Europe.
Gilead argues that despite the high cost of the patented drug, it saves money in the long run. “Our medicines save the healthcare system money, while curing patients of a deadly disease,” says Sarah Swift, director of public affairs at the firm.
MSF will argue that the patent is invalid because it does not contain an “inventive step”. Gilead has already had sofosbuvir patents revoked in China, Egypt and Ukraine, and decisions are pending in Russia, India, Thailand, Argentina and Brazil.
This article appeared in print under the headline “Drug patent battle”
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