Six organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have just appealed the European Patent Office’s September decision to uphold US pharmaceutical corporation Gilead Science’s patent on the key hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir.
The appeal – filed by Médecins du Monde (MdM), MSF, AIDES (France), Access to Medicines Ireland, Praksis (Greece) and Salud por Derecho (Spain) – states that the European Patent Office (EPO) should revoke Gilead’s patent because it does not meet the requirements to be a patentable invention from a legal or scientific perspective.
The appeal comes exactly five years after sofosbuvir was first approved for use, in the US, where Gilead launched the drug at US$1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course.
The corporation has made more than $58 billion from sales of the drug and its combinations in the last five years.
In March 2017, civil society organisations from 17 European countries filed a challenge against Gilead’s patent on the base compound of sofosbuvir, stating that Gilead’s patent claims were not legitimate, primarily because they lack inventiveness.
Out-of-control drug prices
Gilead’s monopoly on sofosbuvir in Europe has allowed the corporation to charge excessive prices for the drug.
In some European countries, Gilead charges as much as €43,000 for a 12-week treatment course, when generic versions of the same course can be purchased for less than €75 outside Europe.