Organizations of people with hepatitis C have filed an opposition for a patent that would prevent 800,000 people from having access to treatment in Argentina
Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (FGEP) leads the opposition to pharmaceutical patents movement as a key strategy to ensure access to medicines
The growing global movement to guarantee access to medicines for people with hepatitis C and fight Gilead’s abuse of the patent system reaches three continents
BUENOS AIRES – Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo and the Argentinian Network of Positive People (Redar Positiva) together in joint efforts with Initiative from Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), introduced a wake-up call to Argentina’s Patent Office to reject the patent requested by GILEAD and Pharmasset Laboratories, LLC on the prodrug of an essential medicine to treat people with hepatitis C. According to FGEP, the pharmaceutical company Gilead is looking to illegally patent the drug, preventing approximately 800,000 people to get the treatment they need. This coordinated effort has huge impact on the global movement to combat the Hepatitis C epidemic that causes 700,000 deaths worldwide each year.
FGEP (Argentina), Redar Positiva (Argentina), the Working Group on Intellectual Property (WGIP/ABIA, Brazil), the Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV / AIDS (Ukraine) and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) in coordination with I-MAK (New York) have filed patents oppositions in Argentina, Brazil, China, Russia and Ukraine, detailing how Gilead is abusing patent laws, claiming existing public knowledge as their own – thus preventing people with Hepatitis C from receiving treatment.
Patent oppositions against Sovaldi®- (trademark name with which Gilead named their version of sofosbuvir) – clearly state that sofosbuvir was developed using information previously published and it is based on an existing chemical compound.
José María Di Bello (Red Mundial Personas con VIH de Cruz Roja); Lorena Di Giano (FGEP’s Executive Director); Roberto Aramburu (President, INPI) and Alex Freyre (President, FGEP) at the moment of filing the opposition to Gilead’s sofosbuvir patent request.
“With this patent opposition we want to make sure that Gilead will not use unjustified patents to charge exorbitant prices for the treatment of Hepatitis C, also preventing us from getting generic versions. Gilead is an obstacle not only for people with Hepatitis C in Argentina but also in other middle-income countries” said Lorena Di Giano, Executive Director of FGEP.
It is estimated that the drug will be sold at high prices in Argentina and in Latin American countries, at an approximate price of AR $ 70,000 for a 12 week treatment of a person. That price would have catastrophic consequences on the public health budget in Argentina. A recent study by the University of Liverpool has shown that the same treatment could be produced for U$S101.
“Gilead tries to appropriate knowledge and technology that are public and seeks to create monopolies applying for illegitimate patents, to charge enormous prices that deprive us of access to Hepatitis C cure. These medications must be accessible to all people that urgently need it. As in my case, I’ve already went through an existing treatment used in Argentina which failed, so taking sofosbuvir is the only chance to save my life” said Pablo Garcia, Redar Positiva’s General Secretary and signatory of the opposition, who lives with HIV and Hepatitis C.
“The global approach to patents is clear: they are reserved for drugs that prove to be new, useful and non-obvious” remarked Tahir Amin, I-MAK’s co-founder. “When looking exclusivity for science that is already in the public domain, Gilead does the same as a landlord charging an exorbitant rent for a property that he does not rightfully own.”
Access to sofosbuvir outside Gilead’s monopoly is very important in our country to ensure treatment for people with Hepatitis C, as our patent law and the guidelines for examination do not allow patents on old, compound formulations that are already in the public domain.
While using sofosbuvir to treat Hepatitis C is a very important therapeutic advance, the molecule is not sufficiently innovative from a chemical point of view so as to claim a patent on it providing exclusivity / monopoly for 20 years.