Hepatitis C drugs come under fire again

December 3, 2015

A new US Congressional report about the price of hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, along with a new class action lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield involving Harvoni coverage, are the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the 2 drugs.

A new US Congressional report about the price of hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, along with a new class action lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield involving Harvoni coverage, are the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the 2 drugs.

Related: FDA approves Harvoni for new uses

An 18-month Senate investigation found that Gilead Sciences originally considered pricing Sovaldi at between $50,000 and $115,000 per treatment regimen. Company executives settled on a price in the middle: $84,000 for the current regimen.

Related:Top 5 reasons Harvoni and Sovaldi may be in trouble

“The documents show it was always Gilead’s plan to max out revenue, and that accessibility and affordability were pretty much an afterthought," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who co-led the investigation with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), in a news conference, The Washington Post reported.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross is being blasted in a new class action lawsuit filed in California for not covering Harvoni treatment for the “sickest” hepatitis C patients, said lead attorney Robert Gianelli with Gianelli & Morris, who represents the plaintiff.

“You have these groundbreaking drugs that cure hepatitis C and you have a lot of people who have this disease. However, the health plans are at a disagreement with the drug companies about what this is going to cost,” Gianelli told FormularyWatch.

In the case of Blue Cross, “Instead of covering people at all stages [of Hepatitis C], they drew a line so their bottom line would not be affected,” Gianelli said. According to the complaint, Blue Cross denied Harvoni for hepatitis C patients who have fibrosis scores below F3.

Other similar lawsuits have been filed against Blue Cross, including an August complaint alleging Blue Cross denied a 10-year hepatitis C patient’s Harvoni treatment.

The high cost of hepatitis C drugs is a problem that “is going to have to be dealt with,” Gianelli said. “However, it is not the problem of the consumer. It should never be shifted to them.”

Related: FDA warns about serious reactions to Harvoni, Sovaldi