HEPATITIS C in Spain

Spain is living a tense moment due to the IP policies regarding the Hepatitis C drugs. The problem is that even though doctors prescribe the medicines to the patients who need them, the Spanish Social Security after the health spending cuts is not paying for their treatments.

Spain’s overall national health spending declined from 70 billion Euros in 2009 to about 53 billion Euros in 2014, according to government figures. The current Spanish Government declined to search for a specific instrument to lower the price of the drug and the fact that the treatment in Spain costs around 60.000€ in comparison with the 750€ in India or Egypt is shocking.

The pharmaceutical company that supplies these medicines is called GILEAD and registered the patent in 2011 and experienced a 185% rise of their profits on the stock markets. This company owns two patents of the most efficient medicines against Hepatitis C so far: SOVALDI and HARVONI. There are around 30.000 people infected in Spain and between 130150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection which is why we can say Hepatitis C is a major global public health problem.

Then, why is this treatment so expensive in Europe? What is the reason why India and Egypt can produce generic medicines? The main reason is because the Indian IP law in dictates that a third party can object to a pending patent which is what happened with this patent. The organization Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I- MAK ) objected to the patent pleading that they used » Old science , for existing compound» because Sofosbuvir has a similar molecular weight, complexity and structure used in another antiretroviral treatment against HIV. Doctors Without Borders supported this objection claiming that a 12-week treatment should not be more expensive than $500 if you do not want to exclude 90 % of the affected population worldwide from this treatment.

The main issue is that the GILEAD pricing and commercial politics is held by the leading financial and investment groups, for which the pharmaceutical industry has become the basis for a new speculative bubble where the health and lives of millions of people is the last thing that matters.

In our last entry we talked about big global companies like Tesla giving away their patents in order to promote a sustainable future and to improve our lives but it seems like not all the companies agree with this, especially if they can obtain millions of dollars from the patients who can barely afford paying for their treatment, ignoring the ones who can’t. In Spain around 12 people die on a daily basis due to this virus, these deaths could be prevented if everyone could use the existing medicines.

Irean Navas

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