Malaysia Advances Affordable Treatment for ‘Silent Killer’

Malaysia’s registration of the world’s first affordable, effective drug for hepatitis C puts treatment within reach for millions around the world at risk for the stealthy, tough-to-diagnose “silent killer.”

There is no vaccine for the disease, which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer—and earlier treatments available in low- and middle-income countries came with terrible side effects.

A better option, Gilead’s direct-acting antiviral called sofosbuvir, was out of reach for LMICs—under patent protection and pricey. 

Then, in 2016, the Malaysian government partnered with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative to develop the drug, organizing a clinical trial. This allowed Malaysia to legally import sofosbuvir at an affordable price from Egypt—which had rejected the patent on the drug—and manufacture a generic version: ravidasvir.

The new drug won approval for use with sofosbuvir in June, following The Lancet’s publication in April of the trial results deeming the drug combo highly effective and well-tolerated, curing patients in 97% of cases.

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