The US drug maker Gilead Science was set to join hands with
at least five Indian Generic Pharmaceutical Companies and permit them to
manufacture and sell cheaper versions of its new hepatitis C medicines -
sofosbuvir and ledipasvir - in 90 countries.
Among the Indian companies likely to sign pacts with Gilead are Cadila, Hetero,
Strides Arcolab and Mylan, while Cipla is expected to earn active
pharmaceutical ingredient (API) rights.
The licensing agreements will allow the generic drug
companies to make and sell copies of the expensive pill for low- and
middle-income countries at lower prices.
According to sources, with this move, Gilead is responding
to criticism from governments and advocacy groups about the high pricing of the
drug that has put it beyond the reach of most patients, particularly those in
The once-a-day pill used in combination with other
antivirals is the most effective therapy to counter Hepatitis C, which kills
about 350,000 people a year globally. The drug's high price makes it nearly
inaccessible to a majority of the patients diagnosed with the disease. Sources
said that the low-cost version would probably be sold in India at $2,000 for a
Gilead, which already holds the patent for this drug in the
US and many other developed markets, has applied for a patent in India, too.
However, the patent claim has been opposed by three partiesthe Indian
Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), global patient access group I-Mak, and an Indian
"We have opposed the Gilead patent for the new Hepatitis
drug in India as it is violative of Section 3(d) of the country's patent Act,"
said IPA secretary general D.G. Shah.