The pill to be consumed once-a-day won approval on Friday and will charge $94,500 for an improved 12-week course of treatment for genotype 1 of hepatitis C, the form of the liver-destroying virus causing 70% of the total estimated 3.2 million cases in the U.S.
The price is sure an area for increasing criticism but it will surely provide relief from antiviral pills and shots that had side effects like flu. Each pill of Harvoni may cost up to $1125.
“Unfortunately, we believe that the price being demanded is still inappropriately high for a product targeting such a large group of patients,” said David Whitrap, spokesman for Express Scripts Holding Co, the biggest pharmacy benefit programs’ manager in the US.
“New innovations do not always require inappropriate, premium pricing.”
We’re talking about a much lower cost to Medicaid for a substantial number of people, and to me that’s a game changer,” said Ryan Clary, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, a collaboration of many organizations that receives some funding from drug companies.
“We believe the price of Harvoni reflects the value of the medicine,” it said in a statement. “Unlike long-term or indefinite treatments for other chronic diseases, Harvoni offers a cure at a price that will significantly reduce hepatitis C treatment costs now and deliver significant health care savings to the health care system over the long term.”
Gilead’s blockbuster Sovaldi, approved last December, is combined with a new antiviral drug called ledipasvir to form the combination pill.
“The sooner you cure them, the more likely you are to have better long-term outcomes for these patients,” said in a statement, John F. Milligan, president and chief operating officer of Gilead, at the Morgan Stanley health care conference last month.
Half of the patients can receive a probable eight week treatment. A trial showed no virus in the blood of more than 90 percent of the patients treated with Harvoni post12 weeks of treatment. The series of three clinical trials involved 1,518 participants who were never treated for their infection.
“Ironically, if this drug were not a breakthrough drug, people would not object to it because so many people would not be standing in line,” said Ed Schoonveld, principal at ZS Associates, one of the consultant to drug companies.
Gilead, based in Foster City, California. will face an expected competition from AbbVie, which is probably going to receive F.D.A. approval for its combination regimen as the year ends.