4th July 2015
Generally feeling fine as far at the treatment goes but feeling annoyed by some of the bureaucratic nonsense I am getting from some quarters, including Australia’s ’peak’ Hep C advocacy group which is anti-Indian generics for the same tired old and false reasons. Of course one wonders why a group supposedly dedicated to helping people with Hep C would be opposed to a safe, cheap and legal treatment that would cure most of the group it is supposed to be concerned for?
To stay in touch I keep a presence on a couple of Hep C Facebook forums, though I got so annoyed with the obviously biased administration of the largest group that I am no longer involved with that. The drug companies appear to have a permanent presence on most of the larger Hep C Facebook pages (as you would expect) and these people immediately attack any post that refers to using Indian generics whilst at the same time espousing the glorious humanitarian efforts of the big drug companies.
The only Hep C Facebook group that I am aware of, that is dedicated to bringing unbiased information about Hep C treatment options, is Hep C Treatment w/o Borders. The admin of this group have only one primary interest and that is spreading factual information about treatment options, particularly Indian generic sofosbuvir.
When I started writing this record of my experiences with Hep C I never did intend to get into the politics of the international pharmaceutical trade however it now seems unavoidable because I get so many emails from so many people who are suffering, or watching a loved one suffer, because they cannot afford the treatment that would cure them. How can I not seek to understand what forces have created this situation where a cure is available to some and not to others simply on the choices of some board of directors on huge salaries sitting in the luxury of their well appointed office.
For example Gilead’s so called access program allows Indian manufacturers to supply 91 countries, chosen by Gilead. In Asia a person with Hep C in Indonesia and Vietnam can purchase the relatively cheap generic sofosbuvir from India however a person with Hep C in the Philippines cannot. The person in the Philippines must pay the full US price. It is Buy or Die!
I have had emails from people in the Philippines in this situation, they have no health insurance and there is no free medical service there. The cost of treatment represents more than 10 years wages to many Filipinos. How can they afford to buy? Their frustration is so tragic, here is the cure but they can not afford it, many of them know that they will have a slow and long death, just because they are poor.
The great myth about Gilead’s “Access Program” is that it provides affordable medication to people in poor countries. Even this is a myth. For example in India the cost of month of Sof/Rib treatment is about US$350 (excluding the cost of medical supervisions) whereas the average monthly wage is US$290. So a three month treatment would cost four months’ wages. A six month treatment would cost eight months’ wages. Sofosbuvir is not cheap in India if you are an Indian on the average wage. If you are one of the 300 million Indians earning below the average wage the cost of treatment could be as much as four years wages. Obviously impossible to pay.
The average wage in the Philippines is about the same as the average wage in India, so why do Indians get access to cheaper generic Sofosbuvir and not the Philippinos? One would have to assume that is because the Philippines has such a close connection with the USA and the steady flow of people and packages between the two nations would threaten Gilead’s “Containment” policy. That’s my guess but there may be other reasons?
However one looks at it Gilead’s so called “Access Program” pricing is such that it allows access to the wealthier members of the Earth’s poorer nations but excludes even average wage earners in those countries, ignoring totally the poor. It can therefore be argued that the access program was not created as a humanitarian program but to create price points in different markets and to ensure that Gilead kept control of access to sofosbuvir in those markets after India rejected its patent application.
How could I not get involved in the politics?