BUENOS AIRES – On World Viral Hepatitis Day, Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (FGEP) held a meeting with officials from Argentina’s Ministry of Health, articulating and coordinating actions and strategies that promote access to sofosbuvir, an essential drug for Hepatitis C treatment. The need for joint action originates from the great challenge both Argentina and Latin America are facing to provide universal treatment to those infected by the Hepatitis C virus.
In Argentina, an estimated 800,000 people live with Hepatitis C and the Viral Hepatitis Program should provide universal coverage to treatment. However, Gilead Sciences holds a monopoly on sofosbuvir and sells the drug at very high prices in the region (U$S7.000 for the 12 week treatment). Gilead Sciences has filed several patent applications hindering the ability to manufacture affordable generic versions. The high prices fixed by Gilead are the main barrier of access to sofosbuvir. If Gilead sells the medicine at monopoly prices it would seriously put in risk the sustainability of the public program against viral hepatitis, the right to health and life of people who need access to treatment. The cure for Hepatitis C could cost the Public Program 115,000% more than its current budget. Recent studies conducted by the University of Liverpool show that sofosbuvir can be produced for only U$S 101.
Fundación GEP, as part of many efforts being implemented in favor of access to medicines, has filed before the patent office (INPI) an opposition to the patent application for sofosbuvir in Argentina, showing that sofosbuvir does not deserve a patent since it violates the requirements of novelty and inventive step required by Argentinian law and international treaties (TRIPS) for a product or process to deserve exclusivity rights.
INPI must resolve urgently and reject the patent request on sofosbuvir to ensure access to treatment for everyone and stop Gilead’s abuses.
Lorena Di Giano (Executive Director, FGEP), Federico Kaski (Argentina’s Vice-Minister of Health), José María Di Bello (Red Mundial Personas con VIH de Cruz Roja), Enio García (Head of the Sanitary Promotion and Programs’ Secretary of the Ministry of Health) and Emiliano Martínez (Coordination Assistant, FGEP) at the joint meeting in the Minister of Health.