Rs.2,200 drug can treat hepatitis B patient

London: A drug for treating hepatitis B virus (HBV) could be mass-produced at a fraction of its current price - for only $36 (Rs.2,267) per person per year, versus the current US price of over $15,000 (Rs. 944,775), say researchers from University of Liverpool in Britain.

Hepatitis B causes liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, both of which can be fatal. It is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids. There is also a risk of infected mothers passing on the Hepatitis B virus to their children.

Hepatitis B
Representational picture

"We have shown that the Hepatitis B drug, entecavir, could be mass produced for only $36 per person per year. Combining mass vaccination with mass treatment would lead to huge reductions in the number of people being infected with Hepatitis B, and could significantly lower the death rates from the current 686,000 per year worldwide," said Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow.

The researchers analysed the factors which influence the cost of manufacturing of drugs for hepatitis B, including the cost of the raw materials, the amount of drug needed and the patent situation of each drug.

They found that the drug entecavir (Baraclude, Bristol Myers Squibb) has the potential to be mass produced as a generic drug at a fraction of its current price which would mean that all countries, including poorer/developing countries, could afford to use it.

Entecavir is an effective antiviral drug used in the treatment of HBV infection with few adverse side effects to patients, low levels of resistance.

The dose is only 0.5 milligrams per day, so only a fifth of a gram would need to be produced to provide a year's supply. This is one reason why this drug is so cheap to manufacture.

Currently, entecavir is the most expensive drug for hepatitis B on the market in both developed and developing countries.

However, the expiration of its patent in February 2015 in the US and other countries, which means it could now be manufactured as a generic drug by other companies at a far lower cost.

The study appeared in the Journal of Virus Eradication.

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