João Pessoa – During the joint 10th AIDS/3rd hepatitis congress, demonstrators took the street and hall to complain about the unsustainable price of the new hepatitis C (HCV) drug sofosbuvir. Many patients in need are under threat to remain uncovered in the government’s treatment scheme.
This month, the first treatments with sofosbuvir started to be distributed in the public health system in Brazil. The price charged by Gilead is USD 6,900 per each 12 week treatment. With the high price, the government said they will be able to provide treatment for 12,000 people in one year, and has the goal of providing 60,000 in 2 years. Even inside this narrow scope, in many states an even worse rationing is already happening, there is far less drugs than people in the line to get them.
The estimated number of people living with HCV in Brazil, according to the Ministry of Health, is around 1.5 million. They estimate around 216,000 in evolution to cirrhosis. The national treatment guidelines restrict access to the new treatment to people on F3 and F4, or any stage of fibrosis in case of coinfection with HIV.
Despite this scenario, the negotiation on HCV drugs is showcased by the government as a success story, comparing the price paid in Brazil with the price in the US.
Protesters highlighted that the high price is based on lack of transparency and undeserved patents, and that scaling up needs to be secured through measures such as more expressive price reductions or the use of generics. Therefore, this protest, and the manifest that was delivered with it, were key to denounce high prices and patent abuses and to show that Brazil is far from an approach based on universality, as predicted in the constitution.
In the demonstration, activists from both, the HIV and HCV movement protested side by side.