ISLAMABAD - Experts on Sunday said that availability of wonder oral drug for hepatitis C treatment called Sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) at lowest price would help save lives of millions of such patients in Pakistan.

A single Sovaldi pill costs $1,000 in the US. The list price in United States for Daklinza is $63,000 for a 12-week regimen, or about $ 750 per day at wholesale costs but thanks to Federal government whose endeavours brought its prices down to Rs 5868 per pack.

Millions of patients are now benefitting availability of Sovaldi at very low price which had come down, especially when the government allowed Ferozsons Lab to import from US.

Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had announced official price of Hepatitis C imported drug (Sovaldi) for Rs 55,000 per pack while granting rights to Ferozsons Laboratories.

Though, the company had later reduced price to Rs 33,000 per pack in Pakistan which was quite astonishing because the price in US was very high. Role of DRAP in reducing the price so low was also laudable.

Later DRAP registered nine local pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the same drug in Pakistan to help eradicate hepatitis-C and fixed price at Rs 5,868 for 28 tablets. This move, however, created a healthy competition to further bring down the price of drug, facilitating those poor patients who were unable to afford the drug.

The reason of such a low price is availability of raw material.

When contacted Chief Executive Officer, Global Pharmaceutical, Khawaja Muhammad Asad commended the government which had recognised importance of disease prevention and took steps towards disease prevention and strategizing its control. He informed that six months back the price of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) (raw material) was about US $ 0.2 million per kg which has now rapidly reduced to US $ 1250 per kg and thanks to the inventor in US which allowed its patent.

Asad said that keeping in view the reduced API, his company also reduced price of Sovaldi. Global Pharma, which has been officially allowed to locally manufacture the drug, is providing at Rs 5,000 (per pack).

He said that the Head of Company in US who introduced the medicine in the world deserves Nobel Prize and added as compared to its high price in the US, his company has facilitated its provision on very affordable price for the poor patients.

Khawaja Asad said Hepatitis C is a disease of the poor who cannot afford to buy the drug but now further reduction in price of medicine has sent a good message to million of Hepatitis-C patients in Pakistan.

He said that the new drug has brought about a revolution due to its above 90 percent cure rate.

Khawaja Asad also spoke high about Ministry of National Health Services which completed the process of ensuring Sovaldi in Pakistan in only six months time and said concerned officials physically visited sites of local manufacturing companies to check quality, negotiated price etc and all this was done in a record time.

According to the national hepatitis survey, approximately 20 million people had HCV in Pakistan and every year hundreds of thousands of new HCV cases are added in the population. The survey revealed that prevalence of HCV was 1.1 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while in Punjab it was 6.7 per cent followed by 5.0 per cent in Sindh and 1.5 per cent in Balochistan.

The prevalence of HCV is increasing all over the country and also in KPK.

Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination is also implementing Infection Control Campaign in four high hepatitis districts named Hangu, Swat, Upper Dir and Lower Dir and developed infection control guidelines, posters, small pocket book in Urdu for each health care provider and also supplied heavy duty needle cutters and sharp containers to all Basic Health Units (BHUs), Rural Health Units (RHCs), District and Tehsil Headquarters of 25 high hepatitis districts of Pakistan.

Materials have been sent, trainings done and now monitoring is being done.

Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on hepatitis has been gazette notified by federal government which advises the Federal and Provincial governments on issues related to hepatitis using scientific ways and authentic references.

The Group has also requested WHO and USA to assist Pakistan in developing viral hepatitis strategy. Both partners agreed and the strategy is being developed in consultation with Provincial hepatitis experts and programme.