High prices make new drugs against hepatitis C impossible in the african nations

Publicação: 11 de August de 2014

In case of price reduction, the disease could be controlled until 2020


The African nation has the highest hepatitis C prevalence rate in the world, reaching 14.7% of the 80.71 million people population

A silent disease that affects between 130 and 150 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), especially in tropical weather countries in Asia and Africa. This is hepatitis C, that remains years unseen of 80% of the infected due to the lack of symptoms in most of the cases. Even affecting a significant part of the population, the scientific community is confident that new drugs will be able to control the disease in the next few years – as long as prices drop drastically.

One of these drugs is sofosbuvir (marketed as Sovaldi), of oral administration and produced by Gilead Sciences. Combined to other therapies, it can effectively cure hepatitis C in 90% of the patients and avoid side effects as tiredness and joint pains. Besides this, the interferon injections can be avoided, an advantage especially for those intolerant to this medication and reducing from one year to three months the treatment time. In Japan, recently the local government approved two other drugs, Daklinza and Sunvepra , indicated for those who do not respond to the conventional drugs.

“If these drugs are commercialized in poor countries at a reasonable price, from a possible intervention by the WHO, we will control hepatitis C in the world around 2020”, explains the former president of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine, from 2005 to 2006, and full professor at the Federal University of Uberlandia (UFU), Dr. Marcelo Simão Ferreira .

The prime obstacle for these drugs to enter the poor countries is the price. Sofosbuvir alone for a three-month treatment associated with another recommended drug, as simeprevir, could cost up to US$150 thousand. The theme is considered an emergency even by Europe’s rich nations.  At the end of the last meeting between European health ministers, that took place in Luxembourg from June 19 to 20, fifteen countries decided to respond to France’s appeal and joined against the high price of the drug produced by Gilead Sciences, demanding a price reduction. Also this year, the WHO made an appeal to reduce the prices, suggesting options as the manufacturer voluntarily licensing the drugs to the generic industry.

Lower prices for the government

When there is interest of governments in purchasing the drugs, the value tends to be lower, yet still expensive, according to Dr. Ferreira. “In Brazil’s case, for example, the drugs approved by the government, Telaprevir and Boceprevir – which are not even the most used in the USA and in the EU, had an estimated cost of US$ 60 thousand each per treatment. The Brazilian government acquired for half that value, but it is still very expensive”, explains.

This year, an agreement between Gilead and the Egyptian government will allow the three-month treatment for US$300 a month per patient, what is roughly equal to a family’s monthly income in that country. Considering the number of infected people, what seems to be a good deal for the local population is, especially, for the company. The African nation has the highest prevalence rate of hepatitis C in the world, reaching 14.7% of the 80.72 million people population – with levels that can reach 26% and 28% in places as the Nile Delta.…