After India, China rejects patent claim for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi

Activists claim that the drug was developed using previously published information and an existing compound

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Saturday 20 June 2015

In another blow to patent claims made by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc, China has rejected a critical patent application for the hepatitis C medicine sofosbuvir, marketed as Sovaldi.

China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) finds the application did not meet the legal criteria for a patent. The application has already been rejected by India.

Meanwhile, US-based legal group Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK) has challenged Gilead's patent application in several countries, including China. According to media reports, the group has received a notice from SIPO informing about the patent’s rejection.

The group has said that the new verdict in their favour will intensify the effort to make the hepatitis C medicine available to masses.

A similar application to oppose the claim for patent has been filed by civil society groups in Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine. The groups have accused Gilead of seeking a patent on existing public knowledge, thus calling it an abuse of patent laws.

I-MAK claims that though it has impressive medical benefits, Sovaldi was developed using previously published information and an existing compound. The group had challenged the patent claim last year with Médecins du Monde in Europe and with the Delhi Network of Positive People in India.

“In the face of an escalating global public health crisis, affecting 150 million people, illegitimate patents are blocking people with hepatitis C from the treatment they need to survive and get well,” said Priti Radhakrishnan, I-MAK co-founder and director of treatment access.

“By freeing sofosbuvir from unjustified patents, we can fight this deadly disease and get more people the medicine they need to live healthy, productive lives. Millions of lives are at stake—especially in middle-income countries like Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine, where the disease is concentrated,” she added.

When left untreated, the hepatitis C virus can lead to liver disease or liver cancer, which kills approximately 700,000 people each year. In Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Russia and Ukraine, the diseased has reached epidemic proportions, with more than 59 million people affected by the virus.

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