Geneva, 9 January 2019. The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) today congratulated The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology Journal for its comprehensive study into the global impact of viral hepatitis. The report is the result of an expert Commission, convened two years ago to look at the current scale of the epidemic and how to accelerate its elimination. The key finding is that, while the global aim to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 is ambitious, it is achievable.

Charles Gore, Executive Director at the MPP, and Liudmyla Maistat from the MPP’s policy team were part of the Commission, which highlights the importance of MPP’s role in reducing prices through public health licences with originator companies to provide affordable access in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). MPP has licences for daclatasvir with Bristol-Myers Squibb and for glecaprevir/pibrentasvir with AbbVie for the treatment of hepatitis C and for tenofovir alafenamide with Gilead for the treatment of hepatitis B. As the report points out, MPP’s generic sublicensees are now producing a full 12-week course of curative sofosbuvir/daclatasvir treatment for as little as $78.

However, as Charles Gore points out, “price is only one of the issues. The MPP can make treatment affordable in LMICs but if governments, civil society, healthcare professionals and patient groups do not work together to get people tested, link them to care, strengthen health systems and tackle stigma, price will not solve the problem, no matter how low. As the report stresses, many players need to work collaboratively and share ownership of both the challenge and the solutions.”

While showing that progress has been made on access to treatment, the report also highlights the challenges that hinder progress toward elimination, particularly lack of effective diagnostics, and calls for scaled-up testing, particularly in high-risk populations, and for the development of new affordable diagnostics, fully integrated into healthcare systems. Also singled out for comment is the need to create innovative financing, focused on high burden, low-income countries and whether financing tools developed for conditions including HIV and tuberculosis can be reworked for hepatitis.

The report, in its list of international priority actions, also calls on the global community to ensure all essential medicines are available through the type of public health licensing the MPP delivers; and that originator companies have defined access policies for LMICs for those drugs approved in the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines List and WHO treatment guidelines. This is yet further support for the MPP’s decision, following a feasibility study, to expand its mandate into essential medicines.

Access The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology Commission in full and The Lancet’s editorial commentary here.