Updated on 5 November 2012
Sankalp, in turn argued that its members were directly affected by hepatitis C and that it represented a community of drug users who are particularly at risk to hepatitis C. Sankalp is an organisation that provides treatment and rehabilitation support for injecting drug users, which form a bulk of hepatitis C infected individuals in the country. An estimated 10-to-12 million people in India, including 50 percent of injectable drug users (IDUs) nationally and 90 percent of IDUs in the northeast, are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Mr Eldred Tellis, director, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, who had challenged the patent, said that, "We hope that the absence of patent barrier will spur generic competition to bring down the price of this much-needed drug for those suffering from hepatitis C. We also hope that the government will now take concrete steps to start providing access to this medicine. It is unacceptable that people are dying due to hepatitis C because they cannot afford to buy the medicine."
Commenting on how the highly contested section 3d of the Indian patent law played a major role, Mr Grover said that, "The IPAB has rightly observed that the patentee used conventional methods to pegylate interferon and obtained predictable results, thereby rendering it obvious to a person skilled in the art. It also correctly held that the patentee has failed to satisfy the requirement of section 3(d) of showing enhanced efficacy. We hope that the patent offices too follow these standards while deciding pre- and post-grant oppositions."
Hepatitis C represents a huge public health problem in India and globally. Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. Hepatitis C is especially of concern for those co-infected with HIV, as several studies have shown that HIV-HCV co-infection leads to increased rates of disease progression.
Injecting drug users are especially vulnerable to HIV-HCV co-infection with HIV-HCV co-infection rates as high as 93 percent among IDUs in Manipur. However, unlike both first and second-line HIV treatment, which is available to all people living with HIV who need it, hepatitis C treatment is not available in government hospitals largely due to its high cost and treatment programmes do not even bother to screen patients for HCV due to the unavailability of treatment.