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Generic Hepatitis C drug to be offered at 12 govt hosps
Published on: Thursday, September 21, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The generic versions of the Hepatitis C medicine Sofosbuvir will initially be available at 12 government hospitals, said Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

The Health Minister said the Government had made the decision to use Section 84 under the Patent Act 1983 (Act 291) to allow the patented Sofosbuvir tablet produced by pharmaceutical company Gilead Science to be more cheaply available to the public.

"The implementation of the Rights of Government for the 400mg Sofosbuvir tablet is for use in government facilities only (Health Ministry and Armed Forces hospitals).

"At the initial phase, it will only be offered at 12 MOH Hospitals," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Dr Subramaniam said the decision to invoke the Rights of Government was made after attempts by the Ministry to be included in the Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) and price negotiations with patent holder fell through.

The MPP is a United Nations organisation that aims to lower the prices of medicine for HIV, tuberculosis and Hepatitis C.

Section 84 of the Patent Act allows the Government to decide that a government agency or third party appointed by the Health Minister to exploit a patented invention, even without the permission of the patent holder, in the event a national emergency or the public interest requires it.

According to Dr Subramaniam, by bypassing Sofosbuvir's patent, the cost of treatment for Hepatitis C would be lower, thus allowing more patients to be treated.

"It is hoped that the implementation of the Rights of Government will enable more Hepatitis C patients to receive treatment and at the same time reduce the cost of treating complications arising from the Hepatitis C disease," said Dr Subramaniam.

He said the increased access to Hepatitis C treatment would help Malaysia achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target set by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation's Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis 2016-2021 targets to eliminate viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.

Dr Subramaniam said that there were approximately 500,000 Hepatitis C patients in Malaysia and that an estimated 2,000 new cases are reported every year while the cost of treatment is very expensive.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) that spreads through blood contact such as through blood transfusions and needle sharing.

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