Senate Report: Drug Company Put Profits Ahead of Patients

Following an 18-month investigation into the high cost of new drugs to treat hepatitis C, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee accused the pharmaceutical company, Gilead Science, of putting profits ahead of providing access of the medications to patients.

The investigation focused primarily on the cost of Gilead's Sovaldi and its follow-on combination treatment Harvoni. Sovaldi was introduced at a list price of $84,000 for a course of treatment, or about $1,000 per pill. The Gilead drugs, however, were a vast improvement over prior treatments that had far lower cure rates and difficult side effects.

The drug company has noted that its treatments reduce the long-term costs associated with managing chronic hepatitis C, such as by preventing liver failure or the need for transplants.   But, according to the Senate report, state Medicaid programs in the U.S. spent $1.3 billion before rebates in 2014 on the new hepatitis C drugs to treat fewer than 2.4 percent of Medicaid enrollees with the liver disease. 

The report concluded that the vast majority of the more than 700,000 people with hepatitis C on Medicaid haven't been able to get treatment due to the high cost.

Perhaps most scathingly, it also contended that Sovaldi and Harvoni prices did not reflect the cost of research and development or the $11 billion Gilead paid for Pharmasset to acquire the drugs, but purely a desire to maximize profit.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health, Gilead put profit ahead of hepatitis C patients: U.S. Senate report