Here’s How Gilead Sciences and the NHS are Building Strong Partnerships to Eliminate Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a huge health concern for the world, with an estimated 215,000 sufferers in the UK alone. The virus infects the liver and, if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis, and eventually liver failure and/or cancer. The disease is spread through blood-to-blood contact via needles, razors, toothbrushes, and, in rare cases, unprotected sex.
Back in 2014, Gilead Sciences introduced Sovaldi, the first drug to offer a cure for hepatitis C. Today, there are alternatives manufactured by AbbVie, Janssen and MSD, which are helping to drive down the cost of these lifesaving medicines.
Now, in the early part of 2018, NHS England has launched the single largest medical procurement initiative in its history to help drive down the cost of hep C treatments even further, with the end goal of completely eliminating the disease by 2025. And it’s asking Gilead Sciences and the pharma industry at large for help.
A Procurement Partnership
The NHS has identified this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to eliminate this debilitating condition for good and believes, with the correct response from the pharmaceutical industry, it stands a good chance of achieving just that. Gilead Sciences has stated its willingness to work towards such a partnership.
“Gilead welcomes the announcement from NHS England about its commitment to make England one of the first countries to eliminate hepatitis C,” said Vice President EMEA for Gilead Sciences UK & Ireland, Stelios Karagiannoglou. “This is an ambition that we share, and we are committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders and NHS England to bring new hope to all patients living with hepatitis C.”
The partnership will look to ease cost-based restrictions the NHS has been forced to place on hepatitis C drugs – namely, by ditching the adversarial tendering system which pitted suppliers against one another in favour of a more collaborative partnership, which should yield the best results for everyone, from suppliers to patients.
The old system meant there were clear winners and losers when it came to NHS England’s tendering. One company would win all the business for a period, while the unsuccessful ones were left out in the cold until the next round of bidding.
Change Grow Live
Another facet of the partnership involves social care charity Change Grow Live. The organisation is working with Gilead Sciences to set up community outreach programs with the mission to identify hepatitis C sufferers who have yet to seek diagnoses or treatment.
Change Grow Live is the UK’s largest drug and alcohol treatment provider and is uniquely placed to facilitate this initiative. Hepatitis C coordinators will be appointing to identify people at risk of infection and encourage them to seek testing. Similarly, they will locate those with a diagnosis, but not yet seeking treatment and turn them onto the options available.
Through Gilead Sciences, Change Grow Love has procured a new method of hepatitis C detection known as dried blood spot sampling. The method provides an elegant method of collecting blood samples in non-laboratory conditions after which they can easily be shipped off for testing. Blood collection methods involving wet samples face challenges in resource poor settings due to a relatively short sample lifespan and a lack of consistency when it comes to storage conditions. The procedure is less invasive than blood collection, and it only requires a pin prick rather than a sub-dermal needle.
Dried blood spot testing also decreases the chances of false positives, particularly when testing the children of infected mothers, as it can detect the genetic material of the virus itself, and not be deceived by antibodies in the blood which have been transmitted to the infant during pregnancy.
Once sufferers have been diagnosed and/or encouraged to seek treatment, they can be supplied with drugs via the procurement agreement with the NHS, completing the triangle and working towards a hep C free world.
“As part of Gilead’s commitment to eliminating Hepatitis C we are proud to be working with partners such as Change Grow Live on initiatives that have the potential to change many lives,” said General Manager UK and Ireland at Gilead, Hilary Hutton-Squire. “By ensuring those at risk are tested and treated within appropriate community settings we can vastly improve the number of patients successfully achieving a cure and make big steps towards elimination”
Changing the relationships between organisations from suppliers to partners is set to be a hot topic at ProcureCon Pharma 2019, taking place in March at the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof, Frankfurt. Download the agenda today for more information and insights.