2022-06-09| Partnerships

Gilead Sciences Works Alongside Westminster Drug Project To Eliminate Hepatitis C

by Reed Slater
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Billion-dollar biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences is working with Westminster Drug Project (WDP), a UK-based drug and alcohol abuse-focused charity, to eliminate hepatitis C virus (HCV) among WDP’s services. Gilead gave WDP a grant in 2019 to help the charity increase its HCV testing and enhance its data recording. The continuation of the partnership aims to eradicate HCV among WDP’s drug and alcohol services by the end of 2023. 


Gilead’s Long Haul Effort to Eradicate HCV


HCV is a liver infection transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected individual. While many cases are asymptomatic and do not lead to life-threatening circumstances, a portion of cases each year lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis. Nearly 400,000 people die each year from complications of HCV. 

Gilead Sciences began its efforts to eliminate HCV over a decade ago when it began to develop its first proprietary chronic HCV-focused drug, Sovaldi. The drug was FDA approved in 2013, and since then, the FDA approved four additional HCV-targeting medicines developed by Gilead. 

In addition to developing several effective proprietary drugs, Gilead announced in 2018 that it would provide low-cost generic alternatives to provide more affordable therapies for HCV patients. Gilead made this unusual decision after the World Health Organization announced the goal of reducing new viral hepatitis infections by 90% and reducing hepatitis-related deaths by 65% by 2030. 

Such ambitious goals require drastic measures to arm organizations with the knowledge and tools to combat HCV. In addition to Gilead’s most recent partnership with WDP, it has collaborated with other organizations in the past to eradicate HCV. In 2015, Gilead helped launch the Georgian HCV Elimination Project, which provided treatment to more than 40,000 infected individuals. Since then, Gilead vowed to provide access to HCV treatment to low and middle-income countries with treatments priced at 98% of American consumer prices. 


Related Article: Everest and Gilead Announce Positive Phase 3 Results of Breast Cancer Drug


Smaller Steps in a Bigger Picture


Eliminating HCV worldwide by 2030 is a massive ambition, so starting with smaller goals like ridding HCV from England’s drug treatment services may be a minor step in the grand scheme of completely extinguishing the disease. 

Director of Patient Access to Care at Gilead, William McCully, said, “We are delighted to partner with WDP to deliver on the ambition to eliminate HCV in drug treatment services in England by the end of 2023 and look forward to supporting WDP’s Hep C Coordinator, the wider WDP team and the NHS to drive testing, diagnosis and linkage to care.” 

WDP says it will take the partnership opportunity in stride to service over 2,500 of its users across the UK. The charity is also working with the Hepatitis C Trust, a charity dedicated to treating HCV, to further its efforts to provide testing and treatment among its user population. 

By arming WDP with resources and knowledge to combat HCV, Gilead is setting up the charity with a prime opportunity to reach its goal of ending HCV infections in England’s treatment centers by 2023. Such an achievement would prove the possibility of eliminating HCV worldwide and provide Gilead and other organizations with a more extensive framework to reach the hugely ambitious goal.

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