Mylan, Ranbaxy, others to bring cheap Sovaldi to 91 markets

Gilead's Sovaldi--Courtesy of Gilead

Cheap Sovaldi is on the way, and it could very well be coming to an emerging market near you. Gilead ($GILD) has ironed out a licensing deal for the hep C wonder with 7 companies--including Mylan ($MYL) and Ranbaxy--and they'll bring low-cost copies to 91 developing countries.

Along with that pair, India's Cadila Healthcare, Cipla, Hetero Labs, Sequent Scientific and Strides Arcolab have also inked nonexclusive agreements with the California biotech to manufacture and hawk their versions of Sovaldi, Gilead said Monday. Gilead will fork over a complete technology transfer of its manufacturing process to ensure quick production, and licensees will set their own prices and pay a royalty on sales in return.

The result: Countries that account for more than 100 million hepatitis C patients--54% of the total global infected population--will gain access to affordable versions of the next-gen treatment, which boasts an unprecedented 90% cure rate.

"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."

Gilead EVP Gregg Alton

As Gilead noted in its press release, the agreement is just a piece of a broader strategy to increase access to its medicines--including pricey Sovaldi, which runs at $84,000 per 12-week course of treatment in the U.S. In the past, the company has rolled out tiered pricing, negotiated with national governments and partnered up with nonprofits in developing countries to boost access to its HIV therapies.

But in the meantime, it should boost Sovaldi's top-line haul beyond the record-breaking $5.8 billion it put up in the first half of this year--and allow generics makers to snag a coveted piece of Sovaldi revenues, too. As Cipla Chairman Yusuf Hamied told Bloomberg earlier this month, when it comes to generics of the product that now holds the title for fastest launch ever, "everybody wants a product."

- read Gilead's release
- read Mylan's release
- read Cipla's release
- get more from Reuters

Special Report: The New Drug Approvals of 2013 - Sovaldi | Top 10 generics makers by 2012 revenue - Mylan - Daiichi Sankyo