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Hillary Clinton calls out drug maker Gilead over price of hepatitis C pills

By Eric DuVall
Hillary Clinton calls out drug maker Gilead over price of hepatitis C pills
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton delivers a speech in Scranton, Pa. Clinton on Wednesday called out drug company Gilead for the high price of their pharmaceuticals. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said Wednesday her administration will go after drug companies that charge exorbitant prices, singling out the company Gilead, whose hepatitis C drugs cost between $900 and $1,000 per pill in the United States.

Gilead's hepatitis C drug cures what had been a chronic liver condition diagnosed in more than 3 million Americans that can lead to increased risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Gilead was recently granted permission to begin sales of its third and most effective drug to treat hepatitis C, Epclusa. It is expected to replace the company's two previous drugs, Solvadi and Harvoni.

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Epclusa will retail for $74,000 for a full treatment, or about $900 per pill, Bloomberg News reported. Solvadi and Harvoni sold for about $10,000 more than that, or $84,000.

Patients in other countries, however, pay much less because their government-run healthcare systems negotiate prices, which Clinton said is unfair.

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In India, for example, the cost of the generic version of Solvadi sells for $4 per pill, compared to $1,000 in the United States. Epclusa has not been approved for treatment in India yet because it is still undergoing clinical tests, but is expected to sell for far less there than in the United States once it is approved.

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Speaking Wednesday in Cleveland, Clinton said drug companies like Gilead are reaping the rewards of taxpayer support for research while extending the benefits overseas.

"Your tax dollars helped support the research that is used to create those drugs in the first place," Clinton told a crowd in Cleveland. "Your tax dollars support the Food and Drug Administration that tests those drugs to determine whether or not they are safe and effective to be able to go to market.  And then we end up in America paying the highest price for those drugs that we have helped to create.  We have got to take this on."

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Clinton specifically mentioned Gilead, referencing the hepatitis C situation, saying she recently met with a doctor running one of New York City's leading hospitals, who told her the physicians he works with are not able to prescribe the drugs their patients need because their health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid don't cover them due to the high cost.

A representative from Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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