The Italian drug agency (AIFA) has published new criteria that will regulate hepatitis C patients’ access to new antiviral therapies that are effective against the disease in 90 percent of cases. The stated goal is the eradication of the disease, which currently affects about 1.5 million Italians and causes 10,000 deaths a year. But in reality, the government only makes resources available to treat a portion of those affected.
The “eradication plan,” as defined by AIFA Director General Mario Melazzini, plans to treat 240,000 patients over the next three years, taking advantage of the €500 million per year allocated under the new budget. That amount provides about €6,000 per patient, destined mostly for the purchase of drugs that since 2014 have given the hope of recovery to about 130 million sufferers worldwide.
The decision on new criteria comes at a delicate moment for the fate of the sick. In recent weeks, the AIFA and pharmaceutical companies have entered the decisive phase of price negotiations. In the past three years, the market was dominated by a single company: Gilead Sciences, which holds the patent on the active ingredient, sofosbuvir. Gilead’s global monopoly guaranteed stratospheric profits for two or three years. With approximately $14 billion in revenues, sofosbuvir (marketed as Sovaldi and Harvoni) became the second drug by sales volume in the world, according to 2015 data.