Activists Hold Die-In to Protest High Price of Gilead's Hepatitis C Drug
July 24, 2014
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Treatment activists at the 20th International AIDS Conference held a die-in to protest the exorbitant pricing of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Gilead's new hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug.
As Gregg Alton, Gilead's Executive Vice President of Corporate and Medical Affairs, spoke, activists brought him a liver on a silver platter while chanting "Pills Cost Pennies, Greed Costs Lives," "Shame, Shame, Shame," and "Pharma Greed Kills." Their signs said, "Wanted: Crimes Against Access," "Hep C Criminal," and "Gilead Kills" as the O'Jay's "For the Love of Money" blared in the background.
Worldwide, at least 150 million people have chronic HCV. Although curable, it kills 500,000 people each year. Hepatitis C is prevalent among people who inject drugs, and widespread in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
A few months of treatment with new oral drugs (including Sovaldi) can cure HCV. But Gilead charges US$84,000-168,000 for Sovaldi in the United States; prices across Europe are similar. Sovaldi is unavailable and unaffordable in LMICs, and access in high-income countries is limited.
Sovaldi must be used with other hepatitis C drugs, making treatment even more expensive. But these HCV drugs can be mass-produced generically for just a few hundred dollars for an entire course of treatment, according to researchers from the University of Liverpool.1
Alton defends Sovaldi's price, claiming that treatment with Sovaldi is cheaper than a liver transplant. But most people with hepatitis C virus have not even been diagnosed, and have no hope for a transplant.
"Extortionate pricing will kill people, no matter what the illness -- HIV, hepatitis, or cancer," said Edo Agustian, an Indonesian activist coinfected with HIV and HCV.
This article was provided by Treatment Action Group.
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