The newly approved drug Sovaldi, a new generation of hepatitis C therapy that promises to cure some 90 percent of targeted patients likely to develop liver cancer if left untreated, costs $1,000 a day.
If current prescription patterns hold, Sovaldi U.S. sales -- manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc. -- could total $5 billion this year, but some analysts say the figure might reach $9 billion. Health insurance companies say the drug will hurt their bottom lines.
Peter Costa, an analyst for Wells Fargo Securities estimated the hepatitis C treatments could cost the 10 largest publicly traded insurers $798 million more than they did in 2013.
Since Sovaldi costs $84,000 for its 12-week treatment -- there are an estimated 3.2 million U.S. adults with hepatitis C -- and any medications from competing drug companies are a year off, some insurers are trying to reserve the drug for the sickest patients and are asking states to take on more of the cost for Medicaid patients.
However, Gregg Alton, Gilead's executive vice president of corporate and medical affairs, said some are "focused on the per-pill cost or per-bottle cost, but that is really not relevant here. It's how much it costs to cure your patient."
In the past, some hepatitis C patients developed liver cancer or require liver transplants which cost $175,000 or more per patient.
Officials at Express Scripts told the Journal they have talked with the pharmaceutical companies creating rival drugs about potential pricing and they have talked to doctors about delaying treatment to some patients with hepatitis C until the rival drugs start getting approved next year and the price of the medications are expected to go down.
[The Wall Street Journal]