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An Indian-made course of treatment for hepatitis C, can be had for around 1,000 pounds against a list price for branded drugs of around 35,000.
An Indian-made course of treatment for hepatitis C, can be had for around 1,000 pounds against a list price for branded drugs of around 35,000.

Buyers Clubs for Cheaper Drugs Help Fight Hepatitis, HIV

Buyers Clubs for Cheaper Drugs Help Fight Hepatitis, HIV

Frustrated by the high price of antiviral drugs, thousands of patients from London to Moscow to Sydney are turning to a new wave of online “buyers clubs” to get cheap generic medicines to cure hepatitis C and protect against HIV infection.
While regulators warn that buying drugs online is risky, scientific data presented at a recent medical conference suggest that treatment arranged through buyers club can be just as effective as through conventional channels.
Will Nutland, who supports a drug-buying network in London and takes Indian-made generic drugs that are not available through the health service to prevent HIV infection, thinks the latest research will build confidence in such schemes, Reuters reported.
“This new data shows that so far we’ve got it right,” the HIV activist said. “It gives us a boost in confidence in the types of drugs that are available online.”
The buyers clubs’ websites act as middlemen by providing details of trusted online pharmacies and drug manufacturers, exploiting a loophole in World Trade Organization patent rules that allows small-scale imports of medicines for personal use.
The sponsors of today’s drug clubs aim to help patients who can’t get the drugs they want through local healthcare systems by bringing in medicines from abroad.
Savings can be huge. A month’s generic supply of the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir costs about 45 pounds ($56) online in Britain, around a tenth of Gilead Sciences’ branded version Truvada.
An Indian-made course of treatment for the liver-destroying disease hepatitis C, meanwhile, can be had for around 1,000 pounds against a list price for branded drugs of around 35,000.
Gilead is also a leading producer of patented hepatitis C drugs, along with Merck and AbbVie.
“Resorting to a buyers’ club is clearly not conventional medicine but it is something some people have been brave enough to try and it seems to be working,” said Andrew Hill of London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Data presented at the Oct. 23-26 HIV Glasgow conference showed generic drugs bought via buyers clubs in Australia, Britain, Russia and South-East Asia by a total of 900 patients delivered hepatitis C cure rates of around 95%. That is similar to outcomes in clinical trials using the original brands.
For James Freeman, a Tasmanian doctor behind a hepatitis C drug-buying club,and other critics of the pharmaceuticals industry, the advent of today’s buyers clubs is just the latest chapter in an ongoing war over drug prices, with parallels to the battle over getting cheap HIV drugs into Africa.
In the 1990s, HIV drugs costing more than $10,000 per patient a year were simply out of reach for millions of people in the developing world. Today, thanks to cheap generics, the cost for the poor has been slashed to around $100.

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