Patent system hinders access to medicines

The European Patent Office (EPO) has decided to uphold a patent owned by US pharmaceutical company Gilead on the compound underlying the hepatitis C treatment sofosbuvir, following an appeal by AIDES, Doctors Worldwide and Médecins Sans Frontières. This decision reinforces an abusive monopoly and ignores factors that could have led to the introduction of affordable generic versions of the drug in Europe.

Following a public hearing before the Board of Appeal, the European Patent Office decided in October 2018 to confirm its decision that Gilead’s claims were legitimate and to confirm the patent on the base compound of sofosbuvir, thus once again endorsing an undeserved patent .

“The Sofosbuvir case is an instructive example of the deviations from the patent system that Médicos del Mundo opposes, and the EPO’s decision is quite worrying because it exposes its weaknesses. It shows that the application of patent law is not related to public health The system is completely disconnected from its needs. Patent policy reform has become a pressing issue in Europe,” said Olivier Maguet, head of pharmaceutical pricing activities at Médecins du Monde. “One of the basic criteria for applying for a patent is inventive step. However, it is not part of the sofosbuvir patent!”

“During our opposition proceedings, we presented clear arguments that most of the compounds covered by the patent had no technical effect. However, the Board of Appeal ignored the logic that a patent must cover a genuine invention and decided to uphold the patent.” The organization’s Intellectual property consultant Quentin Jorget explains.

“Let us remember that the state remains the regulator of the entire pharmaceutical supply chain: health safety, patent granting, price, but also market solvency. However, when the state grants undeserved patents, it does not undertake to defend protection responsibility for the fundamental right of health for all,” commented Dr. Florence Rigal, President of Doctors of the World France.

“To this day, we still receive testimonies from people who have been denied access to hepatitis C treatment because of its exorbitant price, particularly drug users and/or people living on the streets.

This problem also affects those who are not registered with French social security and whose treatment is suspended due to pending social security registration or depending on their liver status,” Ines. Alaoui, head of institutional defense at AIDES ) explain.
According to the World Health Organization, millions of people around the world still live with undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis C.

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