Sofosbuvir, trade name Sovaldi, is an expensive drug developed by Gilead Sciences used to treat hepatitis C. Gilead has announced that the company has agreed on a deal with drug makers, which will make Sovaldi cheaper in developing countries.

On Monday, Sept. 15, Gilead announced that it has signed non-exclusive licensing deals with India's seven pharmaceutical manufacturers, which will help in the expansion and access to the company's hepatitis C drug in many developing countries. The deal will allow the seven Indian drug makers to manufacture sofosbuvir, which is expected to be distributed in over 90 developing nations.

Sovaldi is sold for around $1,000 per pill in the U.S. and the drug will be available at a considerably lower price in developing countries. Hepatitis C treatment from Sovaldi can cost up to $84,000 in the U.S. for a 12-week course. The drug has a high cure rate of around 90 percent. The higher price of the drug in the U.S. had led to protests, but Gilead argued that the price of the treatment is a good bargain when compared to less-effective older treatments.

Hepatitis C is a contagious disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which affects the liver of a person. HCV can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and other medical complications. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 3 percent of the world's population may be infected with the deadly disease and most of them do not know that they are infected.

WHO suggests that there can be up to 4 million people in the U.S. who may be infected with HCV. WHO also estimates that 5 million to 10 million people in Europe may be infected. The number of people projected to be infected with HCV in India is about 12 million. Developing countries under the deal, which will receive the drug at a cheaper price, account for around 100 million people with the disease, which totals to about 54 percent of the people infected globally.

"Hepatitis C is a significant public health issue worldwide, and Gilead is working to make its chronic hepatitis C medicines accessible to as many patients, in as many places, as quickly as possible," says Gregg H. Alton, executive vice president of Corporate and Medical Affairs at Gilead Sciences.

Alton suggests that manufacturing Sovaldi in large volumes in developing countries will assist in the expansion of access to the drug. Alton indicates that the latest agreements with the seven Indian-based drug makers should be considered essential to advance humanitarian program in countries with high hepatitis C cases.

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