Gilead Sciences Asked to Explain Their Prices

Gilead Sciences

How much should a patient pay for a hepatitis C cure? If Gilead Sciences has its way, the price tag in the United States will be in the range of $84,000. Even in America, where medicine is generally more expensive than in other parts of the world, that is quite a substantial amount to pay. So much so that politicians have stepped in to ask Gilead Sciences to explain why the price is so high.

On Thursday, Democratic members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce – representatives Henry Waxman, Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette – sent a letter to John C. Martin, the chief executive of the Foster City, California-based company, asking him to explain, by April 3, how the new medication, Sovaldi, could cost $1000 per pill.

In the letter, the legislators acknowledge that while the new drug could be a “breakthrough treatment,” potentially saving the lives of thousands of people each year, they fear that the drug will not save anyone if patients cannot afford it.

When Gilead applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of Sovaldi, they applied for, and received, a special fast-track exemption which is given when a drug can show that it is a significant advancement over what is currently available. Sovaldi was shown to have a cure rate close to 90 percent, with fewer side effects than current standard treatments, which have a cure rate in the range of 50 to 60 percent.

In addition to explaining how they priced the drug, Mr. Martin is being asked to clarify what it was worth to the company to get fast track approval and if those savings factored into the price, if Gilead is providing low-income patients with discounts, and what the public health impact of Sovaldi will be if it is so expensive that health agencies and insurers cannot buy it.

At the current time, the legislators noted, the states of Colorado and Pennsylvania are taking steps to limit access to the drug. The high price could put a large dent in the state’s Medicaid budget, so it will only be given to the sickest. California is considering similar measures.

Gilead has said that it uses a tiered system of pricing, based on a country’s income. In the United Kingdom, Sovaldi’s price is about $57,000 for the full 12-week treatment. Germany pays around $66,000. Gilead is selling the drug to Egypt for $900 for the entire treatment, or about 1 percent of what it costs in the United States.

Gilead’s stock price fell on word that they were being asked to explain their price. The stock of other pharmaceuticals also fell on fears that they might also be asked to explain their prices.

There are about 3 million Americans who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. That number is expected to go up as screenings become more available. Hepatitis C can damage the liver. One of the most dangerous aspects of hepatitis C is that it does not have any obvious symptoms and so people may go a long time without ever knowing that they have the disease. If the infection is not treated, the liver can be scarred, which can lead to cirrhosis. If left untreated, cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and death.

With a cure rate of 90 percent, Sovaldi could help quite a few people, but the drug is expensive. Congress has stepped in to ask Gilead Sciences to explain why the price for their drug is so high.

By Dan Reyes

Los Angeles Times
House Committee on Energy and Commerce

22 Responses to "Gilead Sciences Asked to Explain Their Prices"

  1. igoriuxa   April 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    It’s not greed it’s Extortion ! They are not just greedy they are violent killers , who let go and save lives only when you give bunch of bucks, otherwise you just die like a hostage of the situation
    It’s pity that 97% of non-HCV population does not support us in this fight with these gangsters from these criminal companies.

  2. Xa   April 3, 2014 at 6:03 am

    In Germany 12 Week Sovaldi costs 60 000€ or 82 000$. The same price as in USA. I have asked in pharmacy.

  3. Bob Mills   March 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Force them to lower the price. But then companies just won’t be able to afford to develop any new miracle drugs.

    • aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      ” If Gilead Sciences has its way, the price tag in the United States will be in the range of $84,000.” …….Of course, OTHER companies and organizations could (should?) develop drugs and give them away for free or at a low cost with charities and interested individuals paying the cost of supporting the research

  4. aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 5:19 am

    The company made it, so why should they have to explain their prices? If legislators want to provide such a drug very cheaply, they can invent or hire people to invent such a drug and provide it very cheaply. Those whose incomes depend on the stock in this private company (pensioners, for example) should not be responsible for the welfare of the public

    • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 5:25 am

      Before you go into health and treating the sick… you should have thought about that. This is a prime example of what is wrong with American wealthy… They have nothing more then greed.
      There are people dying out there, I.E. my father who has had Hep c for 20 years and is slowly dieing from it.. he got it from a blood transfusion after being injured while fighting in the Vietnam war. He was serving his country and now will die because he can not afford the cure do to the disability he received fighting for YOUR country..

      You don’t care for others.. you only care about your 3 meals a day and the fattening of your pockets, who cares if there are people dieing of this daily and you hold the cure.. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic!!!!

      • aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 5:32 am

        Please, organize researchers to create a Hep C drug so that you can help.

        • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 6:26 am

          Yes because my sick dad can do that… I am too busy working the 2-3 jobs in order to pay for his medical bills right now.. Maybe since you have interest in the company you can take pride in helping the sick instead of pride in your pocket..

          • aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 6:58 am

            It must be clear to readers by now that you are a fake, writing stuff that is just not true, or that there is something else wrong.

          • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

            The only thing wrong with me is that fact that i’m losing a parent to something that is 100% curable because of money. I’m losing someone that raised me and was there for me and was there for this country when asked. Now he is on a set income and has something that will kill him and the people that support these private companies and their absolutely insane price hikes are the only ones that can do anything about it, but they wont. because they are like you and think there is something wrong with 90% of the population who’s life is not full of peaches and cream..

            The only thing that is wrong with me, is how you view 90% of the country as nothing more then pocket insulation..

          • aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 8:54 am

            “these private companies and their absolutely insane price hikes are the only ones that can do anything about it,…” There are publicly run organizations that create drugs, in Cuba and Europe, for example. The National Institutes of Health in the US does research.

          • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

            its privately owned companies that make the price hikes.. just like Oil, shipped from overseas, but a different price depending on who you use..
            If you indeed are a private stock holder, you have a lot more power to move mountains ten you think. Its time to stand up to them and tell them enough is enough… what do you think makes healthcare cost so much…. cost of treatment..
            These are all things that are very much connected and designed so that the sick get sicker and the rich get richer..

            Being a private share holder, you have a responsibility to look out for what your company if doing for the public. Of course also to make sure your company is performing the best it can..
            But I bet you have not brought the cost or your cures and treatments to the table and collect your pension. trust me these companies can provide those pension without the price of $84,000 per cure.

      • aspblom   March 24, 2014 at 5:36 am

        “You don’t care for others.. ” Good grief. You know know nothing about me except that I am encouraging people to ask their legislators to invest in research to develop drugs that can be offered at the cost that they think best.

        • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 6:24 am

          Instead of looking at the private companies that make the drug and raise prices 500% just to make a buck while the sick stay sick… yeah I know all I need to know.. once you stop pointing the finger… you may actually take responsibility..

  5. Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 5:17 am

    The raping of Americans for a simple health cure is becoming the never ending plague that will do nothing more then make the rick richer and the poor dead..
    It’s a shame that your greed does nothing but hamper the growth of this country.
    The pharmaceutical companies will be a thing of the past.. a big wave is coming and its headed right for you guys. The population is wising up and soon you guys will get smacked hard…

  6. Matthew Griffin   March 24, 2014 at 5:08 am

    If this drug were available to the poor who are sick and dying of this disease in America, my friend would be allowed to live! -A

    • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 5:29 am

      You can blame aspblom for that… its people like them that only care for themselves and will make you pay a buck for one more second to live if they could.

  7. Michele Damato   March 24, 2014 at 1:45 am

    So let’s see. If I’m rich I take a long vacation to Egypt 3 months for argument sake. Spend $ 30k fot the trip and buy the medicine for $ 900. If you are in the state care you cost $ 90k. Something must be wrong

    • Daox13   March 24, 2014 at 5:19 am

      You are 100% right something is wrong.. its called down right greed and this is nothing new…
      The drug companies want to do nothing more then make thousands of dollars off a cure or charge you $100s for treatment…
      Either way it does nothing for the population and might as well be a spit in the face of the sick.

  8. Bob Shat   March 23, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    greed thats why the major companys stocks have fallen ther afraid to be asked the same questions,,,its called greed..

  9. a   March 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    But I like your libertarian attitude, so I don’t mean to be too critical.

  10. a   March 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    You guys seem like a content mill.

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