Health activists in Thailand are pressuring the government to issue further compulsory licenses for medicines. This time their focus is on hepatitis C a common corollary illness with HIV. A consortium of NGOs have banded together to lobby for the hepatitis C medicine sofosbuvir to be compulsorily licensed. Gilead Sciences Inc has applied for a patent for this drug in Thailand but it is not yet granted (there is a long backlog of pharma patents in Thailand). The NGOs argue the cost of the US drug firm’s hepatitis C medicine is US$1,000 per pill and a full treatment needs nearly 100 of these. Meanwhile Indian companies manufacture them for a fraction of this cost.
In late 2014 a similar group lobbied the government to prevent the grant of a patent to Gilead. Their strategy then was to argue that sofosbuvir's chemical ingredients were not novel.
Explaining the importance of sofosbuvir, spokesmen have said the drug is a radical improvement on previous treatments and can cure the disease within three months. The Commerce Ministry and the Food and Drug Administration are now considering the issue.
This is a classic access to health vs innovator situation.It is also part of a wider campaign against Gilead in multiple countries. NGOs are seeking to use multiple strategies to break the innovator's patent monopoly. Whilst one drug might not matter, one can imagine that if they target all medicines, the likes of Gilead will be reluctant to keep producing new products.