May 23, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

India's Patent Office Breaths New Life On The Production Of Hepatitis C Medication, Gilead Shot-Down In The Process

Jan 21, 2015 12:34 PM EST

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that's often associated with pandemic like outbreaks in third-world countries, due to the viruse's communicably when sterilization practices aren't enforced. Once rampant inside the host's body, the virus then targets the liver where it then decreases the organ's ability to filter toxins; illness such as jaundice are quick to follow suit. And, if left untreated for an extended period of time, can cause both cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. While there's no vaccine to prevent hepatitis c infections, the antiviral medication, Sovaldi, is available for those who have already been infected―but at a steep price.

Gilead Sciences, the monopoly-holding-patentee of the antiviral drug Sovaldi, is the mass producer behind one of the world's best-selling drugs. But, at nearly $84,000 for a single treatment, Sovaldi is often out-of-reach for many healthcare providers residing in third-world countries. In fact, it's that price tag that's given birth to the company's nightmarish nickname, "Killead." Not something any PR agent would like to tackle. But there's hope yet; Gilead recently licensed seven Indian-based pharmaceutical companies to produce generic forms of the life-saving drug.

"Our view is that the competition and the capabilities of these partners will bring down the price," executive vice president of Gilead, Gregg Alton says.

This, in theory, would allow the production of a generic Sovaldi to be sold at a lower-price, making it more readily available to 91 countries with developing economies such as India.

However, when the Indian government turned-down the company's claim, the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks has simultaneously opened the door for even more Indian pharmaceutical companies to produce the drug. In turn, they will also be allowed to expand their selling markets to more than just the proposed 91 countries.

"Getting sofosbuvir out of the stronghold of Gilead's monopoly will be crucial to expanding treatment for people with hepatitis C globally," says executive director of the Action Campaign of Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Manica Balasegaram.

And with the notion that over three-fourths of the world's hepatitis c patients would have access to the once off-limit drug only supports India's decision to cut-off Gilead Science's tyranny over the Solvadi's active ingredient, sofosbuvir.

"Gilead's licensing deal is what we call managed competition," MSF law partner, Tahir Amin says. "What this case can achieve is open competition, a real free market."

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