Generic drugs needed to eliminate Hepatitis C, say experts

Currently, medicines available to treat patients are exorbitantly priced

By Suchetana Sinha
Published: Friday 31 July 2015
Experts feel that the Indian government should be committed to eliminate Hepatitis C Credit: Global Panorama/Flickr

Health experts emphasised the need for generic production of crucial drugs to eliminate Hepatitis C from India by 2020.  

During a recent function held in New Delhi by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), in partnership with the World Health Organization, experts expressed their concern over the high cost of medicines available for Hepatitis C treatment.  

ILBS Director S K Sarin and chairman Kewal Kumar Sharma urged Indian pharmaceutical companies to increase generic production of life-saving drugs to save patients. According to them, bringing down the prices of essential drugs will benefit the poor suffering from the deadly disease.  

Prevalence of costly drugs

Currently, drugs available to treat Hepatitis C patients are exorbitantly priced. One such highly-priced drug is Sofosbovir that had received regulatory approval by the United States in 2013.

The drug has been priced by Gilead Sciences, a well-known biotechnology company, at $ 84,000 for a full treatment course or $1,000 per pill.

Though Gilead signed voluntary licence agreements with multiple generic producers in India, these impose many restrictions. They include invasive limit on distribution and use of the drug.  

Biopharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb’s (BMS) has also priced its patent drug for Hepatitis C, Daclatasvir, exorbitantly. Global advocacy group Médecins Sans Frontières says that BMS has been “purposefully vague” over the pricing of the drug and secretive about its access plan.

Cheaper drugs needed

Experts feel that generic drug producers in India should come up with quality Hepatitis C medicines at cheaper price.  

They also feel that the Indian government should be committed to eliminate Hepatitis C. According to them, there is a need for integration of the Hepatitis C programme with other programmes such as the National Aids Control Programme and the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme.  

Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Mizoram, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry have a high Hepatitis C prevalence rate.

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