Blockbuster Hepatitis C drug now under price control
Drug-pricing watchdog National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has brought under price control revolutionary drug 'Sofosbuvir' prescribed for patients with Hepatitis C.
Sofosbuvir cannot be sold for more than Rs619.31 per tablet starting April 1, according to a gazette notification dated March 29. The drug currently has an MRP of Rs19,800-Rs25,000 for 28 tablets (Rs705-Rs900 for a tablet), depending on the brand name it is sold under.
NPPA has fixed or revised the ceiling price of Sofosbuvir along with 102 other Schedule-I formulations under the Drugs (Price Control) Amendment Order, 2016, according to the notification.
Most of the formulations in this price control list are new additions to the scheduled formulations list, said an official from the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers. Other medicines now under price control include Entecavir and Tenofovir for Hepatitis B.
Sofosbuvir brands like Gilead's Sovaldi are mostly prescribed along with drugs like Ribavarin and Daclatasavir to treat Hep C genotypes 2 and 3, with type 3 being the most common genotype in patients in India, said experts.
At the same time, they feel that the price control may not drastically impact the cost of treatment for Hep C patients due to the heavy discounts they already enjoy from wholesalers for the drug.
"Many patients in India are already getting Indian versions of (popular Sofosbuvir brands) at much cheaper costs than what the price control is limiting it to," said Mandar Kubal, Director, Infectious Diseases and Pulmonary Care Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. "They may benefit with arguing for further discounts from (wholesalers) since the MRP has fallen a bit, but I am sceptical that they can give more discounts," he added.
For instance, Sovaldi is available for as low as Rs7,000 for 28 tablets (Rs250 for one tablet), he said.
Sofosbuvir also has other alternatives that are prescribed and used more, according to Kubal.
Combination drug Sofosbuvir + Ledipasavir, popularly known by the brand name 'Harvoni', is generally used by those with Hep C genotypes 1, 4, 5 and 6. This combination is not under price control.
Hep C kills half a million people annually and infects close to 150 million globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Antiviral medicines can cure approximately 90% of those with the chronic illness, reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, data from WHO shows.