Gilead Sciences, US biotechnology firm, announced Monday it has signed generic licensing deals with seven India-based companies to increase access to Hepatitis C treatment in the developing world.
Gilead's Sovaldi is sold for $1,000 per pill in the United States bringing its total 12-week course of treatment -- effective in nine out of 10 cases -- to $84,000.
The non-exclusive agreements allow the companies "to manufacture sofosbuvir and the investigational single tablet regimen of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir for distribution in 91 developing countries" that account for more than 100 million people living with Hepatitis C, Gilead said in a statement.
The companies in question are Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Hetero Labs Ltd., Mylan Laboratories Ltd., Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., Sequent Scientific Ltd. and Strides Arcolab Ltd.
Under the signed licensing agreements, they will receive a complete technology transfer to "enable them to scale up production as quickly as possible," according to Gilead.
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that can be transmitted through sharing needles, receiving contaminated blood transfusions or having sex with an infected person.
Some 350,000 people die of Hepatitis C-related liver diseases annually, and as many as four million people are newly infected each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Most of the 185 million people infected worldwide do not know they have the disease, with diagnoses often only discovered after a person develops cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or liver cancer.
"Hepatitis C is a significant public health issue worldwide and Gilead is working to make its chronic Hepatitis C medicines accessible to as many patients, in as many places, as quickly as possible," said Gregg Alton, Gilead's executive vice president, corporate and medical affairs.