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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Is $1,125 hepatitis pill from Bay Area drugmaker worth it?

  • Gilead Sciences won federal approval for the drug Harvoni, a once-a-day Hepatitis C pill, that has a controversial $1,125 price tag. Photo: Gilead Sciences, Courtesy Photo
    Gilead Sciences won federal approval for the drug Harvoni, a once-a-day Hepatitis C pill, that has a controversial $1,125 price tag. Photo: Gilead Sciences, Courtesy Photo
After shaking up the health care industry with a $1,000 hepatitis C pill, Gilead Sciences of Foster City won approval Friday for a new version of that treatment that works faster, drops the usual injections and boasts an already-controversial $1,125 price tag.
The new daily pill Harvoni costs $94,500 for 12 weeks and $63,000 for eight weeks — both cheaper than some existing hepatitis C treatments, according to the drugmaker. But some patient advocates are already upset about the price after nearly revolting against Gilead’s first hepatitis C therapy, Sovaldi, which became the best-selling new drug ever when it hit the market late last year at $84,000 for 12 weeks.
Harvoni, which combines Sovaldi and a new drug called ledipasvir, is expected to push Gilead’s overall hepatitis C drug sales to $12 billion this year and more than $15 billion next year, said Michael Yee, a biotechnology analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
“It is a major breakthrough to have yet another regimen that takes two drugs and combines it into one, and shortens the treatment of care for patients,” he said.
Debates over cost
Sales of Sovaldi were $2.3 billion in the first quarter and $3.5 billion in the second, putting it on track to become one of the world’s best-selling medicines. At the same time, its...
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