What We're Reading: Merck's New HCV Drug Increases Competition

What we're reading, January 29, 2016: newly approved hepatitis C cure will increase competition; California will vote on a proposition to control the cost of prescription drugs; and a special report details drug shortages and rationing decisions.

There is now more competition in the hepatitis C drug market. Merck’s once-daily pill was approved yesterday, and it will sell for much less than Gilead Science’s treatment. Reuters reported that Zepatier will be $54,600 for a 12-week regimen compared with more than $90,000 for the same 12-week regimen of Harvoni, Gilead’s once-daily pill. Merck’s Zepatier cured hepatitis C in more than 94% of patients. FDA approved the treatment with or without ribavirin for patients infected with genotype 1 and genotype 4.

The expensive hepatitis C drugs brought national attention to the cost of drugs when Gilead’s Sovaldi hit the market, and scrutiny has only intensified in the years since. Now California voters will be able to weigh in on a proposition to help control the cost of prescription drugs. Under the proposition, the state would not be able to pay more for medications than the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would mean driving a harder bargain and lowering the cost of medication for any program where the state pays for a drug, reported Kaiser Health News.

A special report from The New York Times detailed the impact of when there is a national drug shortage. According to the article, shortages have led to medical institutions making the hard decision about who gets a drug, which has led “murky ethical reasoning and medically questionable practices.” In addition, physicians and hospitals often do not tell patients about shortages and drug rationing.