Pharma Seeks Early Price Discussions With Payers

The pharmaceutical industry has learnt its lesson from the pushback that Gilead faced over the price of its hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi. The lack of a price discussion prior to the introduction of the regimen washed-out the excitement over a "cure" for the disease.

Drugmakers worried about a backlash over soaring drug prices are increasingly talking with insurers ahead of time about paying for new therapies that could cost 6figures a year.

Companies such as Biogen Inc, Amgen Inc, and Sanofi are wary of the negative attention Gilead Sciences Inc received over hepatitis C cure Sovaldi, which surprised the industry in late 2013 with its cost -- $84,000 for 12 weeks of treatment. The price tag had House Democrats calling for an explanation from Gilead executives, and Gilead was spurned by the biggest manager of drug insurance benefits in the U.S., which backed a rival’s discounted hepatitis C drug instead.

Insurers and hospitals felt blindsided by the introduction of Sovaldi, which was a “case study of how not to collaborate,” said Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The medical center hadn’t planned for the steep price, which also put pressure on the Massachusetts state Medicaid budget for medicine, she said at a conference last week in Boston.

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