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When Big Pharma plays for keeps, who wins and who loses?

Photograph by Peter Bauza
MSF and other civil society protests in Munich at the European Patent Office against Gilead's monopoly on sofosbuvir, Germany 2018.

In this video, we follow the development of sofosbuvir, a true breakthrough drug for hepatitis C, a severe virus that attacks the liver and can be deadly. The story of sofosbuvir illustrates how research and development for new prescription drugs really works.

After a scientist who got millions in tax-dollars started a small company that did the long work of discovering a new medicine, and showed that it was safe and effective, a giant corporation bought up the next big blockbuster drug and cashed in. As the new owner of sofosbuvir, Gilead continued clinical trials to learn more about the drug’s effectiveness, safety, side-effects and dosage before seeking government approval to bring the new drug to market. Gilead first set the price for sofosbuvir at $1000 per pill. That made its worth per gram 67 times greater than gold, but research shows that it only costs $42 to produce.

Read more about MSF's work to increase access to treatment for hepatitis C on our Topic Overview page.