shutterstock_393927661_marbury
marbury / Shutterstock.com
3 May 2019Big Pharma

NHS partners with drugmakers to eliminate hep C

The National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s government-run health system, has partnered with Gilead Sciences, Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and AbbVie to help eliminate hepatitis C in England.

NHS England—a regional division of the NHS— announced the deal on Tuesday, April 30.

Together, the NHS and the drugmakers will work towards making England the first country in the world to eliminate hepatitis C, by identifying and treating those who may be unaware they have hepatitis C, including homeless people and those with mental health problems.

Gilead, MSD and AbbVie will provide five hepatitis C drugs at the “best price” for the NHS and taxpayers. They will also launch initiatives with local health services, councils and voluntary groups to find potential patients, test for infection and provide treatment.

It’s estimated that 113,000 people in England are living with chronic hepatitis C, a virus that can infect the liver and if left untreated can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage.

Rachel Halford, chief executive of non-profit The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “The Hepatitis C Trust is delighted with this development. 69% of people who have the virus are currently undiagnosed so the funding in the deal to help find those with hepatitis C and support them into treatment is groundbreaking.”

More than 30,000 people have already benefitted from new drugs which cure hepatitis C being made available on the NHS over the last few years.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “It’s not often that the opportunity arises to completely eradicate a disease, but now the NHS is taking practical action to achieve exactly that.”

The NHS and the drugmakers are working towards a shared goal of eliminating hepatitis C as a major public health issue in England, ahead of the World Health Organisation (WHO) goal of 2030.

According to the NHS, the agreement arises from a new procurement approach which maximises competition between drug companies to secure the best possible deal for patients and taxpayers.

AbbVie had taken NHS England to court over the procurement process, but the process was supported by the English High Court earlier this year.

“The NHS’s single largest medicines procurement, a deal worth almost £1 billion ($1.3 billion) over five years, was launched in April last year but contract start dates had to be delayed by six months after legal action by AbbVie,” said a  statement from the NHS at the time.

The hepatitis C procurement is the latest in a series of ‘smart deals’ the NHS has signed up to.

In November last year, LSIPR  reported that the NHS was set to make record-breaking savings after negotiating deals with five manufacturers of low-cost biosimilar versions of the NHS's most expensive drug adalimumab.

The deal should save hospitals around £300 million ($383 million), equating to three-quarters of what was being spent on adalimumab, which is used to treat severe conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis.

In other countries, there have been numerous challenges to patents covering hepatitis C drugs.

In July last year, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)  rejected another challenge to a Gilead-owned patent covering the company’s hepatitis C medicines.

Non-profit group the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK) had filed a series of challenges after accusing Gilead of obtaining “unmerited patents” for sofosbuvir back in October last year. Gilead sells sofosbuvir under the branded name Sovaldi.

Humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has also  challenged a Gilead-owned patent, which covers the oral hepatitis C medicine velpatasvir, in China.

In September 2018, the European Patent Office  upheld a patent covering sofosbuvir, despite opposition from MSF.

That same month, Gilead  announced plans to produce cheaper authorised generic versions of its branded hepatitis C treatments from 2019.

AbbVie has also faced challenges. In India, I-MAK and the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), which advocates for access to treatment for people living with HIV, united to take on a patent covering pibrentasvir, part of the drug combination that forms AbbVie’s hepatitis C product Mavyret.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free newsletters and get stories like this sent straight to your inbox.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at atapping@newtonmedia.co.uk


More on this story

Biotechnology
29 November 2018   The National Health Service England is set to make record-breaking savings after negotiating deals with five manufacturers of low-cost biosimilar versions of the NHS's most expensive drug.
Big Pharma
5 December 2018   The UK government and the life sciences industry have partnered to develop new technology using artificial intelligence to detect diseases at an early stage.
Big Pharma
8 August 2019   The NHS will receive a £250 million investment to develop a new National AI Lab, which will use the technology to improve patient health, the UK government has announced.

More on this story

Biotechnology
29 November 2018   The National Health Service England is set to make record-breaking savings after negotiating deals with five manufacturers of low-cost biosimilar versions of the NHS's most expensive drug.
Big Pharma
5 December 2018   The UK government and the life sciences industry have partnered to develop new technology using artificial intelligence to detect diseases at an early stage.
Big Pharma
8 August 2019   The NHS will receive a £250 million investment to develop a new National AI Lab, which will use the technology to improve patient health, the UK government has announced.

More on this story

Biotechnology
29 November 2018   The National Health Service England is set to make record-breaking savings after negotiating deals with five manufacturers of low-cost biosimilar versions of the NHS's most expensive drug.
Big Pharma
5 December 2018   The UK government and the life sciences industry have partnered to develop new technology using artificial intelligence to detect diseases at an early stage.
Big Pharma
8 August 2019   The NHS will receive a £250 million investment to develop a new National AI Lab, which will use the technology to improve patient health, the UK government has announced.