Today, campaigners will ask the British government to override the patents currently protecting Orkambi, a cystic fibrosis treatment.
Negotiations between Orkambi’s producer, the Boston-based pharmaceutical company Vertex, and the U.K.’s National Health Service began in 2016.
In July 2018, Vertex rejected an NHS offer of £500 million in exchange for five years’ access to Orkambi and other cystic fibrosis drugs. This record-breaking offer attempted to compromise on Vertex’s annual price tag of £105,000 per patient.
Cystic fibrosis, which affects over 10,000 people in the U.K., is a genetically inherited disease attacking breathing and digestion. Orkambi targets a genetic mutation present in nearly half of British cystic fibrosis patients. Clinical trials found that Orkambi negated lung symptoms by 30-39%.
Should pharmaceutical companies make life-changing drugs available for generic reproduction? What would the threshold be: the number of people afflicted? The drug’s impact on quality or length of life?
On the other hand, researching, developing, and patenting new drugs costs anywhere between $1.5 and $2.6 billion — though this last figure is disputed. Could cutting pharma companies’ profit margins hinder them from developing future treatments?
Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.