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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

AbbVie Deal Heralds Changed Landscape for Hepatitis Drugs

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In a sign that price competition may take hold for hepatitis C drugs, the nation’s largest manager of prescriptions will require all patients to use AbbVie’s newly approved treatment rather than two widely used medicines from its rival Gilead Sciences.
The pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, said it had negotiated a significant discount from AbbVie in exchange for making the drugmaker’s treatment, Viekira Pak, the exclusive option for 25 million people. Express Scripts also said it would allow all people with hepatitis C to be treated with AbbVie’s drug, not only those with more serious liver damage.
“We really believe we want all patients treated,” Dr. Steve Miller, the chief medical officer of Express Scripts, said in an interview Sunday. He said that AbbVie had made that affordable by offering “a significant discount.”
Gilead’s drugs have set a new standard, curing the vast majority of patients in only 12 weeks with few side effects. But their prices have ignited an outcry. One drug, Sovaldi, has a list price of $84,000 for a typical 12-week course of therapy, or $1,000 per daily pill. The newer Harvoni costs $94,500 for 12 weeks.
Gilead says the prices reflect the value the drugs bring to patients and the health care system. But some health plans, state Medicaid programs and prison systems say the drugs are busting their budgets. Many have been limiting treatment to only the sickest patients. Congress has...
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