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Gilead Sciences faces patent challenge over hepatitis C drug Sovaldi

Swiss NGO Médecins Sans Frontières has joined a Europe-wide action challenging Gilead Sciences Inc.'s patent for Sovaldi, or sofosbuvir, a hepatitis C drug.

The MSF, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders, filed the challenge with the European Patient Office alongside Paris-based Médecins du Monde and other civil society organizations from 17 countries in an effort to increase access to the drug.

The challenge argues that the low cost of Sovaldi does not justify its price tag of $59,000 per 12-week treatment in Europe and $84,000, or $1,000 per pill, in the U.S.

According to MSF, the drug costs less than $1 per pill to produce.

If the patent challenge is successful, it could accelerate the availability of affordable generic versions of Sovaldi in Europe and elsewhere.

Médecins du Monde had previously challenged Gilead's patent on sofosbuvir in February 2015, with the European Patent Office later canceling the chemical formula from the scope of Gilead's patent.

A Gilead spokesperson told FiercePharma that the patent challenge "has no immediate impact on Gilead's patents or on our exclusive right to make and sell Sovaldi, Harvoni and Epclusa" in Europe.

Harvoni and Epclusa are Gilead's other hepatitis C medications.