American biotechnology firm Gilead Sciences and Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus launched SoviHep, a drug for treating Hepatitis C.

On Tuesday, March 17, Zydus issued a statement that confirmed it has signed a non-exclusive agreement with Gilead Sciences, which will enable the company to manufacture sofosbuvir, trade name SoviHep, as well as fixed-dose combination of sofosbuvir/ ledipasvir for circulation in more than 90 countries, which includes India. The drug will be marketed by Zydus Heptiza, which is a specialty division in the group.

Hepatitis C may affect the quality of life for patients. Pankaj Patel, Managing Director and Chairman of the Zydus Group, reveals that the launch of SoviHep will provide better treatment for the disease and improve the quality of life for millions of people.

"We are happy to partner with Gilead Sciences to make this breakthrough therapy accessible to patients of Hepatitis C in India. It bridges a longstanding unmet healthcare need. It also underlines our mission of providing access to new, affordable therapies and we stand committed to this," says [pdf] Pankaj Patel, Managing Director and Chairman of the Zydus Group.

Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and is an infectious disease, which affects mainly a person's liver. Hepatitis C primarily spreads via blood contact that is linked with transfusions and contaminated medical equipment. The disease may also spread due to sexual contact but it is very rare.

Around 150 million to 200 million people in the world and 10 million people in India suffer from Hepatitis C. The disease results in scarring of the liver, which can develop further liver complications such as liver cancer, failure and more.

Many Hepatitis C patients also need a liver transplant and the virus may still return after a successful liver transplant.

In India, the disease is treated with PEG-IFN along with Ribavirin for the last 10 years. However, management of Hepatitis C in India is challenging as only 1 percent of the patients have access to the treatment. Liver transplant is quite expensive for many people to afford. Another problem in India is that people are not diagnosed for the disease in early stages, which makes the treatment even more expensive in later stages.

The launch of SoviHep in India is expected to improve the way Hepatitis C is treated in India. The treatment is also expected to be cost effective, which means more people can afford the drug and get rid of the disease at an early stage.

Photo: Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social | Flickr

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