Govt autho­rises im­port of Hep­ati­tis-C drug from US

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

The govern­ment has au­tho­rised the im­port of an ex­pen­sive Hep­ati­tis-C drug from the United States to im­prove treat­ment for the es­ti­mated eight mil­lion peo­ple car­ry­ing the blood in­fec­tion, of­fi­cials said on Mon­day.

Hailed by ex­perts as a "game-changer", So­valdi, which has been on the mar­ket since 2013, costs around $1,000 per pill in the US or $84,000 for a sin­gle course of treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to a US Se­nate re­port re­leased last De­cem­ber.

The drug is now be­ing sold na­tion­ally by a Pak­istani phar­macy chain for around Rs32,000 per 28 tablets, while the govern­ment is urg­ing lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­duce generic copies on an ur­gent ba­sis.

"It is es­ti­mated that some eight mil­lion peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from Hep­ati­tis-C in the coun­try and each year about 80,000 peo­ple will die," a se­nior health min­istry of­fi­cial told AFP.

"Th­ese deaths are caused by ad­vanced liver dis­ease span­ning over a pe­riod of 20-30 years," he added. "The govern­ment had to act ur­gently and even be­fore the for­mal reg­is­tra­tion of the drug in the coun­try, it gave spe­cial per­mis­sion to im­port So­valdi tablets from the US."

An­other of­fi­cial at the drug reg­is­tra­tion au­thor­ity said the govern­ment was ex­plor­ing the op­tion of cheaper al­ter­na­tives.

"We are en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­duce generic drugs on a pri­or­ity ba­sis which are safe, ef­fi­ca­cious and af­ford­able," the of­fi­cial said.

Last Oc­to­ber Pak­istan's drug au­thor­ity re­ceived 61 ap­pli­ca­tions from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms to pro­duce So­fos­bu­vir tablets, the generic name of the drug, of which 14 man­u­fac­tur­ers were fi­nally ap­proved.

Gilead Sci­ences, which makes So­valdi, has been crit­i­cised in the US for the drug's cost. The lofty price, set by Gilead, placed So­valdi and its fol­low-up drug Har­voni out of reach of many con­sumers, the US Se­nate re­port said. Hepati­tisC is a blood in­fec­tion trans­mit­ted via con­tam­i­nated nee­dles, sex­ual in­ter­course, and from preg­nant moth­ers to their un­born chil­dren.

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