Indian drugmakers take page from HIV playbook for hep C combo pill

Indian drug manufacturers are working to combine drugs used to treat hepatitis C in ways not possible in the West because of patent restrictions, according to a Bloomberg News report.

The Indian manufacturers are taking a page from their HIV playbook where Cipla revolutionized the treatment of the disease in 2001 by combining three different therapies patented by three different Western drugmakers. This was possible because at that time India didn't recognize product patents, according to Bloomberg.

Generic drugmakers are working on a one-pill cocktail of the ingredients in Bristol-Myers' ($BMY) Daklinza and Gilead's ($GILD) Sovaldi, according to Bloomberg, and are able to do so because Gilead's license agreements give them the rights to make the experimental combination pill. Gilead itself is working on an experimental drug combination that it plans to file with U.S. regulators by the end of the year, then apply for inclusion on the WHO essential medicines list, Bloomberg reported.

The work is being spurred on because Sovaldi costs upward of $90,000 for the standard 12-week treatment, but costs as little as $900 in India for the generic treatment. Insurers and companies are also starting to cut off coverage for hepatitis C patients in the U.S. because of the high cost.

This in turn has led to a rise in medical tourism for treatment and at least one "Dallas Buyers' Club" of sorts opening in Australia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

- here's the story from Bloomberg and one from ABC