Hepatitis C is an infection caused by Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) which affects the liver and leads to the inflammation of the same. It is a deadly virus, fatal if not treated. This virus, as per recent reports, has afflicted nearly 150 million individuals all over the world with approximately 12 million people just in India.
An infectious disease that afflicts the liver and is generally asymptomatic, it spreads through contaminated blood including poorly sterilized medical equipment and unchecked blood transfusion. Intravenous drug use, sexual intercourse, tattooing with contaminated needle, and sharing personal effects like razors and toothbrushes may also lead to transmission of hepatitis C infection. Though mostly asymptomatic, in some chronic cases the following symptoms do occur:
- Liver cirrhosis and scarring of the liver
- Liver failure, liver cancer, esophageal or gastric varices
Growing population and an increase in the awareness among the population across the world has resulted in the growth of the Hepatitis C treatment at a significant rate. While various kinds of treatments like medication, surgery, and alternative medicines are already available for the treatment of this disease, a recent breakthrough has been made with the development of a pan genotypic pill in the United States of America.
Hepatitis C Drug Breakthrough
In a recent development, there has been a breakthrough in the treatment of Hepatitis C with a drug named Epclusa being developed by Gilead Sciences in the United States of America.
- This drug promises to treat all genotypes of Hepatitis C and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
- Epclusa is the first and only all-oral, pan-genotypic (drugs that work against every genotype) single tablet regimen for chronic Hepatitis C Virus infection;
- The advantage of this drug is that it does not require genotype testing before the medicine can be administered as the drug works against all the 7 genotypes;
- No requirement of genotype testing would mean the elimination of a major cost factor of the same;
- The medicine can be prescribed to all those who have been tested positive for Hepatitis C, and one pill a day for 8-12 weeks will cure the afflicted.
Ira Jacobson, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, New York City and a principal investigator in the Epclusa clinical trials said, “The approval of Epclusa represents an important step forward in the global effort to control and potentially eliminate HCV as it provides a safe, simple and effective cure for the majority of HCV-infected patients, regardless of genotype.”
License For Manufacture of Epclusa in India
India stands to gain from the breakthrough in the treatment of Hepatitis C Virus through Epclusa. This drug will soon be available in India with 11 Indian firms acquiring licenses from the American manufacturer following an approval from the US authorities. Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer, along with its 11 partners in India, are putting in efforts to make both viral hepatitis and HIV an affordable treatment through the Voluntary Licensing Model that will help in transferring technology as well as Intellectual Property (IP).
- Indian markets will be gaining access to the generic version of Epclusa;
- India is very efficient in the manufacturing of generic medicines;
- Once the licensing model makes way into India, partners will ensure good quality as well as low cost go hand in hand;
- Transfer of IP to India will be mutually beneficial as India has already an established supply chain in many hard-to-penetrate markets and also with countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Mongolia;
- India would be able to help Gilead Sciences expand patients’ access and deploy the life saving cure to the under-developed countries;
- The growing demographics and economy in India are expected to offer good opportunities for the global Hepatitis C treatment market.
It is indeed good news for India, not only in terms of healthcare, but also in terms of generation of revenue and employment opportunities with the establishment of factories to manufacture the Epclusa drug.