Gilead Sciences Inc., makers of the breakthrough Hepatitis C treatments Sovaldi and Harvoni, put profits before patients in pricing the highly expensive medications, according to a bipartisan report from the Senate Finance Committee.
What’s the problem?
December 1, 2015 – The committee determined that Gilead was focused on maximizing profits even as the drugmaker’s own analysis showed a lower price would allow more patients to be treated, according to the LA Times.
Gilead’s first breakthrough Hepatitis C medication was Sovaldi (generic: sofosbuvir), which was approved by the FDA in December 2013. Sovaldi costs $1,000 per pill, or about $84,000 per treatment course. Then came Harvoni in October 2014, a highly effective and easier to take alternative to Sovaldi, priced at $94,500 a course.
Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the investigation found that the drugs’ astronomical cost significantly limited patient coverage and imposed huge burdens on federal and state healthcare systems. Medicaid programs in at least 27 states have restricted coverage for Sovaldi to only the sickest patients.
Although medical associations recommend Sovaldi and Harvoni as 1st line treatments for all Hep C patients, the Senate report found that their high cost resulted in less than 3% of the potentially eligible Medicaid beneficiaries receiving treatment last year.
Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver which affects about 3 million people in the U.S., and kills more people than AIDS. Over 75% of infected adults are baby boomers, the age group now entering Medicare. The program is on track to spend more than $9 billion for hepatitis C medications by the end of 2015.