February 14, 2013 – Today, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, Médecins du Monde and Treatment Action Group (TAG) are launching an action urging pharmaceutical giants Merck and Roche to drop their exorbitant prices for pegylated interferon, an effective hepatitis C (HCV) treatment.
At least 180 million people (3% of the world’s population) have been infected with HCV. There is no preventive vaccine. HIV worsens hepatitis C, leaving 5 million HIV/HCV-coinfected people vulnerable to liver-related illness and death despite access to antiretroviral therapy. Chronic HCV is becoming a leading cause of non-AIDS-related morbidity and mortality for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Untreated hepatitis C leads to liver failure and liver cancer; these complications claim more than 350,000 lives each year. Yet in many cases hepatitis C can be cured with 24 to 48 weeks of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The main barrier is the cost of pegylated interferon: the price charged by Merck and Roche makes access impossible for the majority of people who need it.
HCV is widespread in low- and middle-income countries. In places where yearly wages are less than US$2,500, the cost of HCV treatment can exceed US$20,000 for drugs alone.
Merck and Roche sell billions of dollars worth of pegylated interferon each year. “We know that it is possible for Merck and Roche to drop their prices,” says Karyn Kaplan, Director of International Hepatitis/HIV Policy and Advocacy at TAG. “In Egypt, where these companies face competition from Minapharm, a local producer, the price for a course of treatment with Merck’s Peg-Intron and Roche’s Pegasys has been slashed to under US$3,000.”
Massive price reductions for HIV drugs have already been achieved through generic competition and civil-society mobilization; the same can be achieved with hepatitis C treatments.
Merck and Roche can provide access to affordable pegylated interferon to people in low-and middle-income countries through dramatic price reductions, now!
We are sending a Valentine’s Day card (you can download it at www.hepcoalition.org) to leadership at Merck and Roche asking them to “Have a Heart, Save My Liver!” Thousands of stakeholders— people with HCV, their families and medical providers, advocates and friends, are fighting together for affordable hepatitis C treatment for everyone who needs it.
Médecins du Monde: Agnès Varraine-Leca,
+ 33 (0)1 44 92 14 32 – + 33 (0)6 09 17 35 59
Treatment Action Group (TAG): Karyn Kaplan,