Hepatitis C patient’s long waiting time for treatment due to ‘immorally high’ priced medicine

Norwegians spend less antibiotics last year cancer medicinesDrugstore.Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Many Norwegian hepatitis C patients must wait a long time for treatment. One reason is the cost of expensive medicine due to a monopoly situation, according to Klassekampen newspaper.


Between 15,000 and 20,000 Norwegians suffer from chronic hepatitis C. The treatment for the disease is a twelve-week course of medicine that costs around NOK 540,000 because the USA based pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, has a monopoly on medicine in Norway, wrote the newspaper.

Because of the cost, 60% of those living with hepatitis C don’t get access to the medicine until they already show clear signs of liver damage. The disease is particularly common among past and presently active drug addicts.

Ronny Bjørnestad, leader of Prolar, an organization that, among other things, provides information about the disease, goes abroad for treatment. He found the exactly same medicines offered by a manufacturer in Bangladesh for 7,500 kroner.

The USA’s Senate Finance Committee, in an understatement, said the price didn’t reflect research and development but a ‘revenue’ push. Forbes writer, Avik Roy, noted that the same hepatitis C treatment costs $900 (NOK 7500) a year in Egypt, and that US taxpayers are ‘picking up the tab since most US hepatitis C patients are uninsured, underinsured or imprisoned’.

‘If this had been a disease that hit a more resourceful group, it would never have been accepted’, Bjørnestad said of the price tag attached to the  medicine supplied in Norway.

Olav Dalgard, chief of the Department of Infection Medicines at Akershus University Hospital said the prices in Norway are ‘immorally high’.

‘If we had cheaper medicines, we would recommend the treatment for far more people at a much earlier date. This would prevent the possibility of further infection’, he said.

Klassekampen newspaper has contacted Gilead Sciences for comment, but hasn’t received a reply.

© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today