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Jul 24

Gilead Cashing In On Hepatitis C Cure

San Francisco-based Gilead Sciences Inc. has seen its second quarter results benefit from sales of Sovaldi – to the tune of $5.8 billion.

The launch of Sovaldi, a treatment for Hepatitis C with a claimed cure rate of 90% and fewer side effects than previously available treatments, was highly anticipated by patients and medical professionals alike. Flags have been raised, however, at the high price tag – $1000 per pill, making the 12 week treatment a hefty $84 000’s worth. Concerns about the affordability for government healthcare programs have been raised, and Gilead has been asked to produce documentation justifying the cost. With an estimated 3 million sufferers in the US, and more being diagnosed as testing improves, public health officials are concerned that the cost is going to prove crippling.


Hepatitis C is a liver disease that leads to liver failure and cancer, requiring expensive long term treatment and transplants to provide patients with any hope of a cure. Gilead cites the 90% cure rate, fewer side effects and the offset of long-term medical care as justification for the high cost. They believe the 9000 patients cured since the launch of Sovaldi will bring both patients and healthcare professionals around.

Another concern is that medical payers and insurers may ration treatment because of the cost, following Medi-Cal’s release of new treatment guidelines that appear to limit use of the treatment. Some Medicaid programs are attempting to slow the rate of new prescriptions by making prior authorization a prerequisite.

A spokesman from Project Inform, a lobbyist group, believes that this means treatment decisions will no longer be based on what is best for the patient, but instead, on the cost.

Gilead’s competitors will not be resting on their laurels, however, and many in the healthcare community, including patients, will be waiting for a more affordable alternative.

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