On November the 30th , representatives of ECUO and ITPCru on behalf of the Community Advisory Board in Eastern Europe and Central Asia sent an open letter of protest to the Committee of the Prix Galien expressing their concern regarding the Galien Award going to Merck for their Hep C drug boceprevir.
The activists believe that «in the case of Merck, Sharpe & Dohme and the drug boceprevir, the benefits for the company… substantially outweigh any contribution to the advancement of global health».
The letter states further that «Merck has for some time now been supplying the market with pegylated interferon – currently a key component in the treatment of hepatitis C. But the prices set by the company are such that the majority of patients cannot afford to purchase these drugs or are forced to take extreme measures in order to simply survive, since the average annual cost of treatment worldwide fluctuates around $15,000 USD.
The drug VICTRELIS ® (boceprevir 200 mg), for which Merck has received such an important award, is taken only in combination with pegylated interferons, and the cost of boceprevir treatment can reach up to $40,000 USD (not taking into account the price for peginterferons, according to information obtained from public sources).
Therefore, the number of patients who can afford such expensive treatment is minimised. Furthermore, in many countries where the disease burden is particularly heavy, boceprevir is still not accessible, and it is unlikely to become accessible in the near future given the current pricing. It is estimated that 130-170 million people are infected with viral hepatitis C worldwide, and that in the EECA region approximately 7 million people are living with this disease.»
Press-release about Merck and Galien Prix.