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Gilead Offers Egypt New Hepatitis C Drug at 99 Percent Discount

March 25, 2014

This article was reported by Reuters.

Reuters reported that the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences has agreed to sell its new hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug Sovaldi to the Egyptian government for $300 for a one-month supply. The total cost for the recommended 12-week regimen would be $900, instead of the $84,000 price tag in the United States. Gilead agreed to the 99-percent discount because Egypt has the highest HCV prevalence in the world, due largely to the use of poorly sterilized needles during campaigns to eradicate the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Gilead would offer the reduced price to government clinics; patients could access treatment programs after registering during the first half of 2014. The World Health Organization reported that most of the 150 million people with chronic HCV live in developing countries.

Gilead's Sovaldi was the first drug with the potential to cure or even eradicate HCV if it were affordable for widespread use. Thomson Reuters Pharma estimated that Sovaldi sales for 2017 would total $9.1 billion. Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck & Company also were developing oral HCV treatments that showed promising trial results and would not require additional interferon injections.

Health advocates warned of a battle for access between patients in the richer and poorer parts of the world, similar to the friction more than 10 years ago involving HIV/AIDS drugs in Africa. US health insurers have sought assistance from state health officials to pay for Sovaldi, prompting questions from US lawmakers about Gilead's pricing strategies. Gilead had future plans to license Sovaldi to Indian generic pharmaceutical manufacturers, which would market cheaper copies of the drug.

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