$1,000 Pill For Hepatitis C Spurs Debate Over Drug Prices

Federal regulators this month opened a new era in the treatment of a deadly liver virus that infects three to five times more people than HIV. Now the question is: Who will get access to the new drug for hepatitis C, and when?

The drug sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) will cost $1,000 per pill. A typical course of treatment will last 12 weeks and run $84,000, plus the cost of necessary companion drugs. Some patients may need treatment for twice as long.

Hepatitis researchers call the drug a landmark in the treatment of this deadly infection. More than 90 percent of patients who get the new drug can expect to be cured of their hepatitis C infection, with few side effects.

Curing hepatitis C has been difficult, involving regimens that don’t work as well as the new option and bring harsh side effects.

More than 3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, and perhaps 170 million people have the disease worldwide. By comparison, about 1.1 million Americans have HIV, which has infected about 34 million people globally.

What Will It Cost?

The drug company Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, Calif., manufactures sofosbuvir. And some activists are beginning to complain about the company’s decision to charge so much for the drug. “For Gilead, we have outrage, pure and simple,” Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told Business Wire.

But Gregg Alton, a vice president at Gilead, says the high price is fully justified. “We didn’t really say, ‘We want to charge $1,000 a pill,’ ” Alton says. “We’re just looking at what we think was a fair price for the value that we’re bringing into the health care system and to the patients.”

The following two tabs change content below.