How can Drugs be Made Available to the Developing World?

John Kay of the London School of Economics wrote a piece in the Financial Times (UK) in March 2015 entitled “The True Value of a Life is Not About the Pharmaceutical costs” advocating for a national license tax to make certain drugs available to poorer countries. He uses an example with two drugs to make his point-one with breast cancer drug Halavan and with the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi.

What is Halavan and Sovaldi?

Halavan or Eribulin is a metastatic breast cancer drug by Eisai Co. approved in 2010. It is a small molecule intravenous drug that cost $500 per vial.

Sovaldi or Sofosbuvir is a Hepatitis C discovered by Pharmasset and developed by Gilead Sciences, approved in the US in 2013. It is a nucleotide-analog that cost $1,000 per pill.

How is it different obtaining these drugs in the US versus the UK?

Gilead made $10.3 billion from Sovaldi in 2014, thus basically recouping it price tag for buying out Pharmasset at $11 billion. The cost for both these treatments are small and makes it revenue through insurance companies like Medicare.

Meanwhile, Britain controls the availability of drugs in its health care system through The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which “provides guidance” to the quality-adjusted years that can be added from medication. In these cases, Halavan can cure debilitating or fatal liver disease whereas Sovaldi extends life by months. Thus, Halavan is allowed in Britian, but Sovaldi is not.

Why is Hepatitis C treatment important and how can it be expanded?

Hepatitis C infects 150 million people worldwide and associated with poor hygiene. Gilead provides Sovaldi to developing countries at 1% the US price. This price break is in essence a form of foreign aid, one the Kay argues is probably better than ones actually voted on.

Kay floats the idea of a national license fee for drugs to make drug supplies available at a low cost.

Article Based On:

Kay, John A. “The True Value of a Life Is Not about the Pharmaceutical Costs.” Financial Times. N.p., 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

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