Pharmaniaga, Egypt in collaboration to supply cheaper hepatitis C treatment

Currently, a full 12-week course of treatment is available in Malaysia for around RM290,500

By HABHAJAN SINGH

Pharmaceutical companies from Malaysia and Eqypt are collaborating with a non-profit research and development organisation, to make available a cheaper hepatitis C treatment regimen for Malaysians.

Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd, Egyptian pharmaceutical company Pharco Pharmaceuticals Inc and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) have signed a collaboration agreement to supply the treatment regimen for US$300 (RM1,245) in the public sector in Malaysia.

That would be many times lower than the estimated cost of up to RM300,000 for a full course of treatment.

Pharmaniaga MD Datuk Farshila Emran said estimates suggest that there are around 450,000 people living with hepatitis C in Malaysia, but most of them have been unable to access latest effective hepatitis C treatment because of its very high price.

“This agreement enables access to cheaper alternatives for patients in Malaysia, and we are proud to be embarking on this collaboration with DNDi and Pharco that would not have been possible without the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) support,” she said in a statement.

Pharmaniaga Logistics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmaniaga Bhd, a member of Boustead Holdings Bhd.

Malaysia is not given special pricing for the drugs as pharmaceutical companies deem the nation a middle-income country.

One recent local news report quoted a consultant hepatologist from a local university as saying that more than 500,000 Malaysians, aged between 15 and 60, were estimated to be infected with hepatitis C. Of this number, 74% or 386,000 have active or persistent infection.

Currently, a full 12-week course of treatment is available in Malaysia for around US$70,000. With the combination of generic sofosbuvir and ravidasvir, the cost for the same treatment will be made affordable with an almost 100% decrease in price, according to information provided in the statement.

For the new initiative, DNDi is currently running clinical trials in partnership with MoH.

The trials intend to test a potentially pan-genotypic treatment, combining the drug candidate ravidasvir, produced by Egyptian drug manufacturer Pharco, with the existing hepatitis C medicine sofosbuvir, according to the statement.

The clinical trial is ongoing in six hospitals and is co-sponsored by MoH, with initial results expected in early 2018.

DNDi South-East Asia head Jean-Michel Piedagnel applauded the Malaysian government in its efforts and commitment to make available affordable access to safe and effective treatments for hepatitis C.

“The strategic investment from MoH in helping develop a public health approach to the epidemic is remarkable,” he said in the same statement.

The agreement covers the supply of ravidasvir and sofosbuvir, once approved in Malaysia. A government use licences issued by the Malaysian Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism in September 2017 enables the importation of generic sofosbuvir, in order to make this drug available in the public health system through- out the country at affordable prices.

Pharco CEO Dr Sherine Helmy said they hoped their collaboration with Pharmaniaga and DNDi, to develop a treatment regimen that costs less than US$1 per day, will lead to wide-spread access to safe, effective and affordable treatment for hepatitis C patients in Malaysia and around the region.

Pharco is the largest manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in Egypt, focused on research, formulation, manufacturing and commercialisation of pharmaceutical products in the region. It exports to 47 countries around the world.