Global Hepatitis B epidemic could be treated at an annual cost of £24 per person

The patent on the drug entecavir is set to run out next year, which will drastically reduce its price

Jamie Campbell
Sunday 26 April 2015 19:00

A drug for treating hepatitis B patients could be mass produced at a cost of only £24 per person per year according to a new piece of research.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool say that they have demonstrated how the new drug could be produced to hugely cut the cost of treatment, which currently costs the NHS price of £4,600 per patient.

Hepatitis B can cause liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, both of which can be fatal and an estimated 686,000 people died from the infection worldwide in 2013.

It is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids and there are an estimated 350 million people infected worldwide.

Researchers from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine analysed the factors which influence the cost of manufacturing the drugs for Hepatitis B, including the cost of raw materials, the amount of drugs needed and the situation regarding the patent of each drug.

They discovered that the drug entecavir has the potential to be mass produced as a generic drug at tiny proportion of its current price.

This would enable countries, including developing nations, to be able to afford it.

The research is published in the Journal of Virus Eradication.

Entecavir is an effective antiviral drug used in the treatment of HBV infection and notably has few adverse side-effects.

It is taken orally and works through preventing the virus from multiplying and reduces the amount of virus in the body

The daily dosage is only 0.5 milligrams, so an annual supply would only be a fifth of a gram overall, one of the reasons the drug could be available so cheaply.

At the moment it is the most expensive drug available for Hepatitis B on the market in both developed and developing countries.

However, its patent expires in February 2015 in a number of countries including the U.S, which means that from then it could be manufactured as a generic drug by other companies at a much lower cost.

Entecavir will become generic in the UK in 2017.

Dr Andrew Hill, Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the University’s Department of Pharmacology, said: “We have shown that Hepatitis B drug, entecavir, could be mass produced for only £24 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.”

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