The drug offers a realistic solution for hepatitis sufferers, but U.S patients have understandably balked at the $1000 a day price tag. Now, news comes that Gilead has authorised generic drug companies in India to sell the pill in developing countries for a fraction of the cost that Americans will pay.
The deal means sufferers in 91 countries like Honduras, Vietnam and South Africa will have access to a cure for the virus which manifests with symptoms like chronic tiredness, liver pain and bowel problems. As far as the cost, they’ll be paying approximately $10 a day or even less, depending on the version.
It may seem like an altruistic move on behalf of big pharmaceutical, but the Wall Street Journal says it’s simply a justification. “By licensing the sale of less expensive versions, Gilead can blunt criticism that Sovaldi is priced out of reach for patients in poorer countries without undercutting the high prices it is charging in the U.S. and other developed markets. India-based companies can charge a lower price because their manufacturing costs less.”
Gilead is also facing criticism from Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for Doctors Without Borders. He says Gilead’s agreement means many middle income countries will miss out because generic drug companies will not be licensed to sell the drug at an affordable price to patients.
Further to this, Asia Russell, who is the director of international policy at the patient-advocacy group Health Global Access Project says, “Gilead’s deal leaves behind vast patient populations in countries like China, Brazil and Turkey that count tens of millions of hepatitis C patients.” Russell added that in many of the 91 approved countries, “Sovaldi will still be priced well above the cost to manufacture the drug and out of reach of many patients.”
Gilead has sold more than $10 billion worth of Sovaldi this year, but they’ll only receive 7% of the sales in developing countries once they begin next year. The average course of treatment for someone living in one of these locations will be $1,800 and with a 90% success rate in just 3 months of treatment, it could well save their lives.