Cipla revs up for generic Sovaldi launch in India

Gilead's Sovaldi--Courtesy of Gilead

Cipla is rolling out its low-cost version of Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) hep C powerhouse Sovaldi in India. With a launch planned this week, Cipla will become the latest company to field a Sovaldi copycat under Gilead's deal with generic drugmakers.

The Indian pharma will market the drug under the name "Hepcvir," bringing the Sovaldi copycat to an estimated 12 million to 18 million hep C patients in the country, The Economic Times reports. "Cipla has always brought accessible and affordable medicines to fight against disease like AIDS and Hepatitis B," CEO Subhanu Saxena told the newspaper. "[H]ence, Cipla has made it a priority to bring Hepcvir to patients in India as well as the other developing nations."

In September, Gilead reached an agreement with generics makers such as Cipla, Hetero Labs and Natco Pharma to bring low-cost versions of its $84,000 drug to 91 poor countries, covering around 54% of the world's HCV patients. Hetero Labs was recently cleared to market its generic Sovaldi and said it would launch the drug by the end of March.

Natco is also gearing up to launch its own Sovaldi copycat, dubbed "Hepcinat," after nabbing approval from India's regulatory authority for the drug. The drugmaker joined Gilead's licensing deal after challenging the company's Sovaldi patent in India.

MSF's Rohit Malpani

Not everyone is pleased with Gilead's deal with generic drugmakers. Médecins san Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders said last week that the drugmaker has loaded those production agreements with requirements to protect its profits. The deals include provisions--such as requiring patients to show proof of citizenship--that could interfere with patients' access to the drug, MSF says.

The group is urging Gilead to drop some of those provisions. And if the company does not comply, MSF wants the generic drugmakers to ignore some of the requirements. "We're seeing Gilead trying everything it can to squeeze every last drop of profit out of some middle-income and high-burden countries, and millions of people with hepatitis C will have to pay the price," Rohit Malpani, MSF's Director of Policy & Analysis, said in a statement.

- read the Economic Times story