Allow Low, Middle-Income Countries Access Lifesaving HIV/Hepatitis C Drugs – Stakeholders


Stakeholders have demanded an open license for the generic production of HIV and Hepatitis C drugs to allow low and middle-income countries access to lifesaving medications.

The call was made on Tuesday during a news briefing organised by AIDS HealthCare Foundation in Abuja.

The Country Programme Director, AHF Nigeria, Dr. Echey Ijezie, called on Gilead, a pharmaceutical company based in the United States to stop evergreening patent on HIV and AIDS access to drugs like Truvada.

According to Ijezie, the company had priced several of its HIV and hepatitis C drugs out of the reach of many people, by refusing to register some drugs in developing countries.

He noted that Gilead had consistently blocked attempts to introduce cheaper generic versions of its medicines, which would benefit humanity.

Ijezie said Gilead, which was listed among the 15 largest biopharmaceutical firms in the world, puts profit before people’s lives, adding that in 2021, they generated over 27 billion dollars in revenue.

The Country Programme Director said the advocacy was a call by AHF on Gilead to put life first.

“First, stop evergreening patent right on existing HIV and AIDS drugs like Truvada. Secondly, they should open the license for the generic production of the hepatitis C drug, Harvoni, to allow middle and low-income countries access without exception.

US to Limit ‘Harmful Chemicals’ in Drinking Water

“Thirdly, they should license the technology for the production of treatment for cryptococcal meningitis to generic manufacturers among others,’’ Ijezie said.

AHF Director for Advocacy and Marketing for Africa Bureau, Ms. Oluwkemi Gbadamosi, said Gilead should be held accountable for placing a price on the most effective, modern and lifesaving medicines

She decried the astronomical profit made by big pharmaceutical companies at the expense of people’s lives.

According to her, Gilead is notorious for exploiting patent monopolies on blockbuster drugs to enrich itself and its shareholders.

“The research and development are often funded by U.S. taxpayers, but for their generosity, the public is rewarded with astronomical drug prices.

She said, “For example, a highly effective hepatitis C drug cost 1,000 dollars per pill and a 12-week course of treatment has a retail price of over 90,000 dollars in the U.S.

“A generic version of the same drug cost only 4 dollars per pill in India, but according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, Gilead has excluded 50 middle-income countries from access to the generic discounted price.

“These exclude countries like Jamaica, Tunisia, the Philippines, Ukraine and Venezuela among others.”

Gbadamosi said over the years, Gilead had been criticised for blocking access to affordable treatment of cryptococcal meningitis, a deadly fungi disease that often affects people living with HIV.

Step up Health Sector Innovations, WHO Chief Urges Countries

She said, “Gilead holds a patent on the technology needed to produce the drug, therefore generic manufacturers cannot produce it at a lower cost.

“The company has promised but failed to deliver on a commitment to provide the drug to 116 countries at 16 dollars per vial, and has not even registered the drugs in these countries, but rely on local suppliers.”

The Advocacy Director said that for decades, Gilead had exacted a heavy toll on people living with HIV around the world by securing successive patent rights on tenofovir-based formulations for over two decades.

According to her, the company generated billions of dollars in profit by maintaining a monopoly on some of the most effective and well-tolerated antiretroviral drugs.

“In 2016 when the estimated cost of Atripla in the developing world was around $100 per patient per year, the U.S. government paid 30,000 dollars per patient, per year for the same drug,’’ she added.

Executive Secretary of Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS, Ms. Amber Erinunwinhe, said the group was standing strong on the advocacy to ensure that millions of people have access to affordable lifesaving drugs.

She said the lives of people must matter first before profiteering, hence the call on Gilead to end its monopolistic behaviour and ensure the license for generic production was made available.

Facebook Bans Anti-Vaccine Group

“It is important for us to look at the lives of people. The people you are producing these drugs for should come first before profit.

“This is because if these lives are not there tomorrow, I don’t think they would make such a profit. I am happy the advocacy is not just in Nigeria, but a global one,’’ she said.

The Advocacy Specialist, Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, Mr. Micheal Edoh called on the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research to wake up and carry out more research that would focus on local vaccine production for the citizens.

He further lauded AHF for taking the lead in the advocacy by ensuring millions of people especially the community of persons living with HIV and AIDS have access to lifesaving medication.

Secretary of the Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond, Mr. Ade Atambi, said health was a fundamental right of citizens and a social service that must be provided by the government.

He said, “Government in all countries, especially in Nigeria, must be serious with the business of making resources available to fund public health institutions.

“They must stop the narrative of partnering and privatizing with the private sector. They must support the public sector funding.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here