Members of Chilean congress and a group of 6 patients visited Chilean ministry of health yesterday to ask the government use authority under Chilean law to end patent monopolies on prostate cancer drug enzalutamide and on sofosbuvir-based combination drug for treatment of Hepatitis –C virus. The proposal was made under the advertisement of Luis Villarreal, director of Corporation Innovarte, a non-governmental organization in Santiago. A newly passed congressional resolution to issue compulsory licensing on high priced drugs foe hepatitis C and prostate cancer.

According to an unofficial translation

The patients and members submitted a petition that outlined that legal authority and public policy rationale for the grant of compulsory licenses on the patents for the drugs described in the petition. Those compulsory licenses would allow prescription drug manufacturers to produce generic drug, subject to reasonable royalty. The proposal acknowledges that Chilean law, as well as the rules of WHO, permits the issuance of compulsory license to public health protection. It also reference the resolution passed by the Chamber of Deputies, requesting that the ministries of health and economy use their ability to issue compulsory license to facilitate the acquisition of medicine at lower prices.

Survey reports

Citing studies that hepatitis C may affect up to 0.9% of the population, and that of prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer related mortality in Chile; the proposal specifically calls for compulsory license to be issued for sofosbuvir, a generic hepatitis treatment, and enzalutamide, a generic treatment for cancer. The brand name versions of this medicine, which are under patent in Chile, are beyond the financial means of patients, the proposal argues. If a compulsory license were issued, a generic version could be imported into the country that made available at low cost. After receiving the proposal, Claudio Castillo, chief of staff to the minister of health, promise to have an answer for its author within two weeks.

The petition argued that the government should use compulsory license to lower high price of enzalutamide and HCV drugs, and ensure affordable access within constraints of governmental budget. Sofosbuvir can end up costing up to 36000$ per patient in Chile, depend upon length of treatment. The petitions noted that the government should address high prices and the consequent high drug spending through government program , using compulsory license, rather than rational treatment.

Patients and members of Congress have requested that the Ministry of Health declare it a public health need to improve access to sofosbuvir-based HCV drugs and the prostate cancer drug enzalutamide. This would save the lives of the thousands of Chileans who cannot afford the excessive prices. We hope that the government will take steps to issue compulsory licenses on the drugs in our petition and incorporate compulsory licensing in its public policy toolbox.