New Hepatitis C Patients Seeking PEG-Intron Therapy to be Put on Waiting List
Unable to produce enough of its new hepatitis C treatment to meet growing demand, drug maker Schering-Plough Inc. has said that it will start a waiting list for patients seeking the medication, which is used in combination with another of the company's drugs, the Wall Street Journal reports. There are currently 60,000 patients taking the new two-drug hepatitis C treatment, which is more effective than previous drugs and consists of PEG-Intron, a pegylated interferon-alpha, and ribavirin, marketed under the name Rebetol. Schering-Plough first began marketing PEG-Intron in October but has had trouble meeting the growing demand for the therapy. Although the patients currently taking PEG-Intron and Rebetol will continue to receive their supply of the drugs, all new patients who want the treatment will have to be placed on a waiting list. Schering-Plough did not say when it would be able to increase production of the treatment, but said that new patients will likely have to wait about 10 to 12 weeks to begin treatment (Anand, Wall Street Journal, 1/16). Schering-Plough spokesperson Robert Consalvo said that the company will form an independent medical board to review "urgent" requests for PEG-Intron and has set aside some of its supply to meet such emergencies (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/15).
Brazil Discusses Cost of Hepatitis C Drugs
Brazil's Health Ministry and the pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG are engaged in "normal" price discussions about the company's pegylated interferon hepatitis C treatment, Pegasys, according to a Roche spokesperson, Dow Jones Business News reports. In response to reports on Monday that the country's health ministry told Roche and Schering-Plough, which makes the similar PEG-Intron, to cut their prices of the drugs or "risk having their patents broken," Roche spokesperson Horst Kramer said, "The issue of patent-breaking is off the table" (Dow Jones Business News, 1/15). The hepatitis C treatments are currently 27.5 times more expensive than the standard interferon that the country's public health service uses, Reuters reports. The government is seeking price reductions on the new drugs because they are more effective than the standard interferon in treating hepatitis C. A 1999 decree allows Brazil to issue a "compulsory license" to locally produce generic forms of drugs "in cases of a national emergency or out of public interest." Last year the Brazilian government "won acclaim" when it successfully "strong-armed" both Roche and Merck & Co., Inc. to lower AIDS drug prices by 40% to 65% by threatening to locally produce generic forms of the drugs (Baldwin, Reuters, 1/14). "Things are in good shape," Kramer said, adding that Roche's current discussions with the Health Ministry are "typical for all new drugs" (Dow Jones Business News, 1/15).