India’s generic drug manufacturers have flooded the market with cheaper medicines to treat hepatitis C after Gilead Sciences Inc’s patent application was rejected in January 2015.
“By scaling up the production of generic medicines, India is playing a pivotal role globally in reducing the prices of medicines for hepatitis C,” said Henk Bekedam, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in India .
In Japan, one tablet of sofosbuvir costs Rs 30,000 and in India Rs 350, daclatasvir costs Rs 10,000 and Rs 135, and the combination drug of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir costs Rs 40,000 and Rs 500, respectively.
Sofosbuvir, daclatasvir, and ledipasvir are generic names of drugs used to treat hepatitis C. The virus can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
In India, 12 to 18 million people are infected by the disease. WHO, which has sought fairer pricing of ‘unaffordable’ hepatitis C medicines in western nations, has lauded Indian drug makers for producing cheap drugs.
“No country in the world can afford to treat every patient, who has the potentially fatal liver disease hepatitis C, using new (patented) drugs that cure the condition,” WHO experts said.
Their investigation shows the drug treatment (using patented drugs) of all patients would be very expensive for countries. It would amount to 10.5% of Netherlands’ annual drug budget, 190% for Poland, and 33% for the UK.
Some states, including Punjab, have negotiated with Indian generic companies and got the antivirals for $300-370 for a 12-week treatment.
Though the treatment is cheaper in India than that in the US or the UK, it is unaffordable for most people.
Natco and Hetero got the Drugs Controller General of India’s approval to launch the combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, and daclatasvir in the second week of December, while Strides Shasun was allowed to make sofosbuvir.