(See updates below after reading the post.)
This may seem off topic for this blog, but I think it’s right on topic. Hepatitis C affects many people, including those in the vast alternative sexualities and relationships networks. Hepatitis C is seen by many as not only a public health concern, but a sexual health concern. There is now a cure available, but the welfare of people is evidently being trumped by corporate profit concerns. This is unethical and must be addressed.
Below is a replication of a notice I received from a good friend who cares a great deal about this issue. Please read it and sign the petition. Also (and I never ask this of my blog post readers), please use the Share This link at the top of this post (right under the title) to share this post with your social media network. Here’s my friend’s notice replicated:
Tell Gilead to Stop Withholding a Cure for Hepatitis C! Sign This Petition!
Gilead Refuses to Cooperate in Cure – Withholds Lifesaving Pill to Fatten Their Own Wallets!
Hepatitis C is an extremely serious national health issue. We need to get this cure released!
Here is the text of the call to sign the petition:
Two companies have an effective 100% cure for Hepatitis C without interferon or ribavirin. But this cure is literally being withheld from millions by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences because they are more concerned about profits than human lives.
This cure is a combination Bristol-Myers Squibb’s drug daclatasvir and Gilead Science’s GS-7977 (sofosbuvir). When these two drugs were used together, 100 percent of Hepatitis C patients were cured. These results are amazing for the approximately 170 million people in the world with Hepatitis C. The problem is that Gilead Sciences is unwilling to work with Bristol-Myers. The cure exists while people continue to suffer and die.
Dr. Douglas J. Manion, a senior vice president for Bristol-Myers, said his company was “keen” on working with Gilead but that “thus far, they have been unwilling to engage in that collaboration.”
Quote from Dr. Paul Thuluvath – Wall Street Journal: “We had never, ever imagined—even in our wildest dreams—we could treat” hepatitis C so quickly, effectively and without serious side effects, said Paul Thuluvath, a doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore who had six patients test the new treatment. “I think the pharmaceutical companies have a moral responsibility to work together and bring it to market instead of [following] their own vested interests.”
Quote from Dr. Scott Friedman – New York Times: “The only appropriate motivation should be what is the best and fastest way to get cures, not what is best for the shareholders,” said Dr. Scott Friedman, chief of liver diseases at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the trial.”
Quote from EASL Secretary General Mark Thursz: EASL Secretary General Mark Thursz wants to see the two companies work together. “The combination of daclatasvir and GS-7977 has shown positive results at Phase II. EASL is disappointed that development of this combination has been halted as daclatasvir and GS-7977 promised to deliver a highly effective oral regimen that we hoped would be available to HCV patients soon,” said Thursz.
Act NOW and sign the petition to insist Gilead Sciences work with Bristol-Myers on the Phase III drug trials necessary to get this cure to market.
To sign the petition (I did), click here: www.HepC-Cured.org
More than 240,000 people have died since these results were released this past April and there is still no collaboration. How many more must die before Gilead Sciences starts putting human lives before profits???
Here is what the petition says:
Bristol-Myers Squibb, Media
John C. Martin, Gilead Sciences, CEO
Open Letter to Gilead Sciences, their Board of Directors and shareholders:
The recent data from the Boston AASLD meeting confirmed the amazing 100% cure rate with Gilead’s sofosbuvir and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s daclatasvir. Not only did this combination cure genotypes 1, 2 and 3, this cure was achieved without the toxic and debilitating side effects of ribavirin which is known to cause severe anemia and other life-threatening conditions. There are even some concerns that ribavirin may in fact be carcinogenic (see http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0815/p655.html) So millions of patients and their families were so very hopeful about the possibility of quick access to this safer and effective HCV drug combination without ribavirin.
But to our continued disbelief and monumental heartbreak, Gilead refuses to move forward in this collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb and the most significant discovery in the history of hepatitis C. The rationale for this appears to be nothing more than Gilead’s determination to corner the market with its own in-house NS5a inhibitor GS-5885, which is not effective in the three genotypes and most likely will require the addition of the dreadful ribavirin. Other companies, such as Abbott, are now seeking their own ribavirin-free cocktails and hopefully will prove successful… but it will take years. In the meantime, Gilead could be forging ahead with this combination of sofosbuvir and daclatasvir and bring it to market much sooner than any others in development and start recouping its $11 billion investment as well as saving millions of lives. This would be a win-win situation for everyone involved, i.e., Gilead Sciences, its shareholders, the people suffering and dying with this disease, as well as their families who love them just as much as you love your own families.
Although we may not have hundreds of thousands of signatures on our petition and we have not yet been able to capture the world’s attention about this urgent and dire situation, do not take that as any indication of our intent to quit in the pursuit of this cure. We have no other choice in this matter and we will continue on… day after day, week after week, month after month… until we no longer have any life left in our bodies, or until another company comes up with a cure as safe and effective as sofosbuvir combined with daclatasvir.
Update 1: The source of this petition is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). Michael Weinstein leads that organization and he has a history of reactionary and, quite frankly, misguided approaches to effective HIV prevention. So AHF’s involvement with this petition is admittedly suspect. However, I have done some checking on the research and it does appear that the drug combination is indeed a cure and this issue has been one near and dear to my heart for some time. I was instrumental in organizing the first San Francisco town hall meeting on Hepatitis C and ever since I have followed the research and public health protocols around this disease. So I’m still supporting the petition with the full understanding that the source of the petition is suspect.
Update 2: An inside source has told me that it’s not necessarily about corporate greed in this instance but is one of strategically getting approval from the FDA while securing the profits Gilead needs to cover their investment. So yes, corporate profits are part of the sticking point on release and there is a valid public debate about the ethics around that, but I also understand the company has to recoup its investment in the research. I’m told the FDA has already guaranteed that to BMS since the BMS medication was initially a government study and therefore has preference for protection. BMS is trying to push for release of the drug regimen because they’re already protected. Physicians can’t secure these medications separately in studies. Gilead is evidently wading through the patent process in order to get the same protection as BMS when they combine the drugs. So I will admit that Gilead may not be the bad guy in this, but I still support the petition if for no other reason than it might nudge the entire drug release process along faster. I can hope it does. This is just so darned important to release since so many people have Hepatitis C and this cure could change their lives dramatically.