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A payer is suing Gilead over the price of its hep-c drug Sovaldi in the US after spending $2.4 million on the treatment for its employees.
Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) costs $84,000 per course of treatment in the country, a price that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) claims is ‘exorbitant’ and in “sharp contrast to the prices at which Sovaldi is being made available by Gilead in other countries”.
Its suit points to Gilead’s licensing of the pill to generic companies in developing countries at a ‘deeply discounted’ price and its estimated $900 cost in Egypt as examples of this ‘obvious paradox’.
“Gilead is not authorized by the patent laws (or otherwise) to abuse its purported monopoly on Sovaldi by charging discriminatory prices that apparently have no rational basis other than to inflate the company’s bottom line,” the company adds.
“Gilead’s price gouging has had at least two detrimental consequences in this country. It has, obviously, resulted in the consumers and entities that have purchased Sovaldi paying significant prices for the drug. It has also effectively priced some consumers and government programs alike out of the Sovaldi market, thereby preventing needed recipients from obtaining this critical drug.
“Notably, there have been reports that this pricing scheme has had a disproportionately high impact on minorities and those in lower income brackets (demographics that have had historically higher incidents of Hepatitis-C infections).”
Separately, the US Senate Finance Committee is investigating the pricing of the drug and whether the market for Sovaldi ‘is working efficiently and rationally’.
Sovaldi is part a of new generation of highly effective hepatitis C drugs and has been shown to effectively cure the disease in more than 90% of patients in just 12 weeks. Gilead has said that this justifies the high cost of the drug as in the long-term it can reduce the need for costly liver transplants.
The effectiveness of the drug combined with its price tag has led to Sovaldi becoming the fastest-selling drug of all time – it made $8.4 billion in its first nine months on the market and is on course to break the $10 billion marker by the end of the year.
The question of Sovaldi’s price is not just an issue in the US, though – in October internal documents revealed that the NHS may be unable to afford the drug despite NICE previously saying that it was willing to pay for it.
Several other pharma firms, including BMS, Merck and AbbVie, have similar hep-c drugs in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Gilead’s Sovaldi combination treatment Harvoni has recently seen approval in the US and Europe.
By George Underwood – Pharmafile online