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Gilead's New Hepatitis C Drug Will Cost More

Laura Joszt
Despite the current high cost of Gilead Science's hepatitis C drug, the next generation version will be even more expensive. However, the company also struck deals with generic drugmakers to bring the drug to developing countries.
Despite the current high cost of Gilead Science’s hepatitis C drug, the next generation version will be even more expensive, according to Reuters.

Sovaldi costs $1,000 a pill or $84,000 for the full 12-week treatment. However, Gilead’s new all-oral treatment for the hepatitis C virus is expected to be shorter and simpler, according to Kaiser Health News. Nearly half of hepatitis C patients can be cured after 8 weeks with the new pill compared with 12 weeks on the current regimen.

According to Reuters, the new treatment could effectively cut treatment costs by one-third for patients who only stay on the treatment for the shorter timeframe. The new treatment combines Sovaldi with the experimental therapy ledipasvir. The current regimen, which includes Sovaldi, ribavirin, and interferon, costs $95,000 in total.

The new drug cures up to 99% of patients, compared with 90% on the current regimen, and US health regulators will decide by Oct. 10 whether or not to approve the drug.

Gregg Alton, Gilead’s executive vice president of corporate and medical affairs, did not give an exact price for the new medicine, but did tell Reuters that it will be less than Sovaldi plus Olysio, Johnson & Johnson’s daily protease inhibitor, which costs up to $150,000.

However, more than half the total global infected population lives in developing countries. Monday, Gilead announced agreements with 7 India-based general pharmaceutical companies: Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Hetero Labs Ltd., Mylan Laboratories Ltd., Ranbaxy Laboratories, Ltd., Sequent Scientific Ltd., and Strides Arcolab Ltd.

These companies will manufacture the generic sofosbuvir and the investigational single tablet regimen of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir for 91 developing countries, which account for 54% of the world’s hepatitis C population.

According to The New York Times, Gilead will introduce the drug in India at $10 a pill, or 1% of the price in the United States. A 24-week course of treatment will cost $1,800. At the earliest, the generic version of Sovaldi will be available in India, where people are generally infected with a different form of the virus, in the second or third quarter of 2015.

“Hepatitis C is a significant public health issue worldwide, and Gilead is working to make its chronic hepatitis C medicines accessible to as many patients, in as many places, as quickly as possible,” Alton said in a statement. “In developing countries, large-volume generic manufacturing and distribution is widely regarded as a key component in expanding access to medicines. These agreements are essential to advancing the goals of our humanitarian program in these countries.”


 
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