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Substantial price reduction for hepatitis C drugs


Hepatitis C drugs will be much cheaper in the future

When treating hepatitis C, many people have the problem that they simply cannot afford the medication they need. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders has now announced that so-called generics can massively reduce the price of treatment. The organization entered into agreements with generics manufacturers to enable treatment for millions of patients.

Doctors Without Borders experts have negotiated fairer prices with generics manufacturers, which will make it possible to treat hepatitis C in millions of people in the future. The doctors released a press release on the results of their negotiations.

Prices for hepatitis C medication are being greatly reduced

At this year's World Hepatitis Summit in São Paolo, Brazil, MSF doctors announced that thanks to negotiations with manufacturers, prices for drugs against hepatitis C would be drastically reduced. In the future, the medications that are critical to treatment will be available for just $ 1.40 a day, or $ 120 for 12 weeks of treatment.

Millions of sufferers will benefit from the new prices

So far, the original price for a 12-week treatment for pharmaceutical manufacturers Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in the United States was $ 147,000. In 2015, the MSF aid organization still had to pay the companies up to $ 1,800 per 12-week therapy. The negotiated price cuts could result in millions of patients being able to receive treatment in the future.

What have been the costs of treating hepatitis C so far?

The manufacturer Gilead has been selling the drug sofosbuvir in the U.S. since 2013 at an original price of $ 1,000 per tablet. The cost of one tablet of BMS Daclatasvir was $ 750 in 2015. The total cost of treatment over a 12-week period is an enormous $ 147,000 in the United States.

Patients must be able to afford the medication for treatment

Unfortunately, manufacturers also charge exorbitant prices for their medicines in many developing countries. This slows down treatment programs and only a few patients benefit from the medication. "What do breakthrough new drugs bring if patients can't afford treatment," asks Jessica Burry, a pharmacist for MSF's drug campaign, in the press release.

Governments must have access to affordable generic drugs

The prices of hepatitis C drugs are so high that most patients cannot pay for them out of their own pocket. Even governments struggle to ensure treatment in the public health system. In contrast, however, the prices for generic preparations continue to decrease, say the experts. Governments must have access to affordable generics, the only way they can treat millions of people, stresses the aid organization MSF. In Malaysia, for example, compulsory licenses would be issued if patents prevent access to essential treatments.

Therapy prices have decreased

In 2015, the aid organization Doctors Without Borders paid between 1,400 and 1,800 US dollars for therapy with the drugs sofosbuvir and daclatasvir from Gilead and BMS. Today the prices for a treatment are significantly lower. They are now only $ 120 thanks to generics of absolutely the same quality, reports the aid organization.

71 million people with chronic hepatitis C in the world

There are approximately 71 million people with chronic hepatitis C worldwide. Many of those affected (72 percent) live in countries with low and middle incomes. So-called direct-acting antiviral medicines (DAA) are an important breakthrough in the treatment of hepatitis C. They lead to healing rates of up to 95 percent, with fewer side effects than before, the doctors explain. However, access to these antiviral drugs is made difficult by the very high prices. For this reason, in many countries, treatment is only available to people in the advanced stages of the disease.

69 million people are still not being treated

Three years after the introduction of the drug sofosbuvir, it was estimated that only around 2.1 million patients worldwide were treated with the drug. A total of 69 million people still have no access to the drugs that are so important to them. Due to the extremely high prices, countries with publicly financed general health care are particularly burdened financially. This limits treatment not only in developing countries, but also in countries such as Australia, Italy, Canada and the USA, for example. This is reminiscent of the beginnings of HIV treatment.

Aid organization enables treatment at affordable costs

Doctors Without Borders researchers and other scientists have fought hard for about two decades to gain access to generics and greatly reduce prices for HIV medication, explains Mickael Le Paih, an MSF expert in Cambodia. "History repeats itself with hepatitis C - the drugs we need are overpriced again, but we are finding ways to make treatment affordable so that our patients can be cured," the doctor said in the press release. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders treats patients with hepatitis C in a total of eleven countries. Since 2015, almost 5,000 patients have been treated with so-called direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAA). The cure rates for these treatments are very satisfactory; completed therapy led to a cure in 94.9 percent of those affected. (as)

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