Pharmacist detained for criticizing Sovaldi

CAIRO: Pharmacist Islam al-Menshawy was detained Monday from his home for posting “false news” about Sovaldi, a U.S. engineered medicine that Egypt subsidizes to treat millions infected with Hepatitis C, according to al-Bedaiah news website.

Nasr City prosecution charged Menshawy with spreading false information on Facebook, disturbing public peace, spreading panic and harming public interests, Bedaiah reported.

Pharmacist Wael Ali, a friend of Menshawy’s, told Bedaiah that Menshawy posted on Facebook that some patients “suffered a setback” after using Sovaldi, adding that the Ministry of Health reported Menshawy rather than investigating his claims.

Meanwhile, the Pharmacists Syndicate expressed full solidarity with Islam in a Wednesday statement, and that lawyers from the syndicate attended Menshawy’s investigations.

The prosecution should legally inform the syndicate before investigating a pharmacist if his crime pertains to his profession, member of the syndicate’s board George Atallah said in the statement.

Menshawy was ordered detained for four days, ending on Thursday, unless his detention is renewed. The syndicate said it is in touch with Menshawy’s family.

Ali added that he and Menshawy had filed a police report against Minister of Health Adel Adawy for “serious mistakes” made in the contract and import of Sovaldi.

Egypt has the highest rate of hepatitis C infection in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund; 14.7 percent of the population ages 15-49 have tested positive for the virus.

In September 2014, Egypt imported 225,000 bottles of Sovaldi, and received a similar amount in March 2015 at a 99-percent discount, with the government subsidizing much of the remaining cost.

Egypt also plans to produce 1 million bottles of Sovaldi to help implement the government’s ambition in substantially reducing the number of hepatitis C patients by 2020.

The Ministry of Health reported it had treated 150,000 patients in 2014, and plans to treat 250,000 to 300,000 patients yearly.

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