Hepatitis C cure too expensive in Malaysia

20 Oct 2015 / 15:47 H.

    KUALA LUMPUR: Many hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients in Malaysia are dying every year due to them being denied access to affordable treatment due to strict patent applications.
    It was revealed at the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference that at least 453,000 people are infected with HCV and the number could be more as many Malaysians may not be aware they are infected.
    Gilead Sciences, a research-based biopharmaceutical company, holds the patent in many countries and that prevents people living with HCV to get access to affordable medicines due generic manufacturers not allowed to produce the generic version.
    Sofosbuvir (SOF) which is used in combination with another drug Daclatasvir is known to effectively treat HCV infection particularly Genotypes 1 and 3 that are most common in Malaysia.
    The SOF treatment cost USD84,000 (RM357,000) for 3-month medication (RM4,300 per tablet). In Malaysia a patient pays RM387,000 (about USD 87,430) for a 24-week course.
    The Positive Malaysian Treatment Access and Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), a local NGO, that supports fair treatment of medicines to all, said that the government has to take concrete steps to ensure the cure is made affordable here.
    "Unfortunately Malaysia has granted several patents to SOF. This means that unless concrete steps are taken by the Malaysian government to address the patent barriers, patients in Malaysia will be denied access to cheaper generic versions of SOF," said its director Edward Low at the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference here.
    Low said people would die without the treatment and the ministry of health has to do something to help the situation.
    The NGO has submitted a memorandum to the ministry besides initiating online petition against the Gilead Sciences.
    In the petition, the NGO is asking for the government to address intellectual property barriers including by using flexibilities such as compulsory license to make to make Sofosbuvir based treatment regimens available in Malaysia at an affordable price.


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