Class action suit latest problem with Sovaldi

Dec 22, 2014

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently filed a class action suit in federal court against Gilead Sciences, Inc. over the high cost of its hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently filed a class action suit in federal court against Gilead Sciences, Inc. over the high cost of its hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi.

Drugs in Perspective: Sovaldi

The complaint alleges that Gilead’s pricing of Sovaldi, $84,000 for a 12-week regimen or $1,000 per pill, have priced certain patients and government programs out of the market. The high cost of the drug has also had a disproportionately high impact on minorities and those in lower income brackets, which typically have a higher rate of hepatitis C infections, according to the suit.

At presstime, Gilead said it is currently reviewing the complaint and did not comment at this time.

Novel new drugs approved in 2014

The lawsuit is just the latest in a series of protests, including extensive media reports, over the cost of both Sovaldi and Gilead’s Harvoni for hepatitis C, which averages $1,125 per pill.

The latest hit to Sovaldi comes from pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) Express Scripts, which switched to AbbVie’s just-approved Viekira for hepatitis C. Express Scripts reportedly receives a significant discount off of AbbVie’s $85,000 list price and AbbVie gains exclusive access to millions of the PBM’s patients.

Viekira combines 3 drugs into one pill, and may be more cost effective than hepatitis C medications already on the market, Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, told analysts on a conference call recently.

Express Scripts’ executives have also complained about the cost of both Sovaldi and Harvoni, saying that the “current pricing is unsustainable in the United States," David Whitrap, director of communications for Express Scripts, told FormularyWatch.

Meanwhile, the class action suit alleges that Gilead’s pricing scheme has the potential to bankrupt segments of the US healthcare system. There is estimated to be between 2.7 and 5.2 million people in the United States with hepatitis C.

Despite the high cost, sales of Gilead’s 2 treatments continue to rise. Gilead reported $8.5 billion in Sovaldi sales through the first three quarters of 2014. And CVS Health 

 that Harvoni is being prescribed at rates 2.5 times higher than Sovaldi was at the same point in the medication’s launch.

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