Gilead hands Sovaldi manufacturing tech to 7 generics makers

Gilead Sciences ($GILD) is presenting a huge gift to Mylan and half a dozen Indian generics makers. It is transferring the manufacturing technology for its biggest product and its blessing to go make cheap copies in 91 markets.

In addition to Mylan, India's Ranbaxy Laboratories, Cadila Healthcare, Cipla, Hetero Labs, Sequent Scientific and Strides Arcolab were all let in on the nonexclusive deal, including for their home market. It also includes markets in Asia and Africa. Gilead said 54% of those people in the world who have the chronic disease, amounting to about 100 million patients, are in the developing countries where it will allow generics companies to manufacture the cheaper copies.

Gilead has faced significant criticism for the high price it is charging for its hepatitis C breakthrough drug Sovaldi in the U.S. and Europe. It charges $84,000 for a 12-week course in the U.S. But it said it wanted to make the drug available to people who otherwise would not have the wherewithal to buy the drug. "Hepatitis C is a significant public health issue worldwide, and Gilead is working to make its chronic hepatitis C medicines accessible to as many patients, in as many places, as quickly as possible," Gregg Alton, Gilead's EVP of corporate and medical affairs, said in a statement. "In developing countries, large-volume generic manufacturing and distribution is widely regarded as a key component in expanding access to medicines."

This is not unprecedented for Gilead. The California-based drugmaker partnered with some of the same players in a 2012 deal to make some of its HIV meds available in developing countries at lower cost. In that case, it not only provided a technology transfer to Mylan, Ranbaxy and Strides Arcolab, but it also said it was ponying up some money for their process improvements to reduce the overall manufacturing costs.

- read Gilead's release