Sofosbuvir, the wonder medicine for Hepatitis C that costs $84,000 or Rs 50.4 lakh for a 24-week treatment regimen in the US, will soon be available in India for about $1,800 or roughly Rs 1.1 lakh for the same regimen. The patent holder, pharma major Gilead, announced on Monday that it would be selling the drug at this price in India and also giving voluntary licences to seven Indian pharma companies to produce it.
The voluntary licencing deal promises to make the drug cheap in Indias as well as up to 91 countries where the Indian firms are allowed to sell it. But this has come at the cost of these Indian companies agreeing to abandon India's partners in its fight against Big Pharma for access to inexpensive medicines — Brazil, Russia, China, Thailand and many other middle-income countries. The Indian manufacturers will not be allowed to sell sofosbuvir in these countries.
Under the licensing agreement Cadila Healthcare, Cipla, Hetero Labs, Mylan Laboratories, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Sequent Scientific and Strides Arcolab have the right to develop and market generic versions of sofosbuvir and a related drug, ledipasvir, in 91 developing countries.
"We believe in the capabilities of our partner companies for high quality, low cost, high volume manufacturing. The competition between them will bring down the price of the generic version of sofosbuvir and thus this partnership will help bring about better access to patients globally. Gilead will have no control over their pricing. Our partner companies will set their own prices," said Greg H Alton, executive vice president of Gilead, at a press conference.
Gilead will be selling sofosbuvir at $300 per bottle (28 pills meant for one month of treatment at one pill per day), or about 1% of the US price. The Indian companies' representatives said they could not tell at what price they would make the drug available as they would have to finish one production cycle to be able to decide the price. India is estimated to have approximately 18.2 million people living with Hepatitis C virus.