Among the coconut plantations and beaches of South India, a factory the size of 35 football fields is preparing to churn out billions of generic pills for HIV patients and flood the U.S. market with the low-cost copycat medicines.
U.S. patents on key components for some important HIV therapies are poised to expire starting in December and Laurus Labs Ltd. — the Hyderabad, India-based company which owns the facility — is gearing up to cash in.
Laurus is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of ingredients used in anti-retrovirals, thanks to novel chemistry that delivers cheaper production costs than anyone else. Now, its chief executive officer, Satyanarayana Chava, wants to use the same strategy selling his own finished drugs in the U.S. and Europe. He predicts some generics that Laurus produces will eventually sell for 90 percent less than branded HIV drugs in the U.S., slashing expenditures for a disease that’s among the costliest for many insurers.
“The savings for U.S. payers will be so huge when these generic combination drugs are available in the U.S.,” he said in an interview at the factory outside the Southern Indian city of Visakhapatnam. Payers will save “billions of dollars,” he said.
The patent expiries are starting this month when Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Sustiva loses protection. Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Viread follows next month. Both companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Would expect to see another round of evergreening, along with regulatory and judiciary road blocks to stop this.
After all, it’s only people’s lives, and the profits must be protected.