The NGO Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) is contesting Gilead Sciences’ intellectual property on Sovaldi as part of a campaign to cut prices on the blockbuster hepatitis C drug.

The France-headquartered network has filed its opposition to the patent granted for Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) with the European Patent Office. It accuses the US biotech of “abusing its patent to impose prices that are unsustainable for healthcare systems”; twelve weeks of Sovaldi treatment costs £33,000 in the UK.

This is the first time in Europe that a medical charity has employed this method to improve patient access to drugs. While noting that Sovaldi “represents a major therapeutic advance”, Doctors of the World contends that “the molecule itself, which is the result of work by many public and private researchers, is not sufficiently innovative to warrant a patent”.
Jean-François Corty, Doctors of the World's French programmes director, said that “even in a ‘rich’ country such as France, with an annual drugs budget of 27 billion euros, it’s hard to meet this cost and already we’re seeing an arbitrary rationing approach that excludes patients from care”.
Tahir Amin, director of the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge (I-MAK), which led a successful legal challenge in India last month, said that “in patent law, you have to show that something is new and many of these patents are not new in scientific terms”.

India’s Patent Controller rejected a key patent application for Sovaldi, potentially opening the floodgates to a stream of cheaper copycat drugs in the country.