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US Senate Report Takes Aim at Gilead for High Drug Costs

by Bidita Debnath on December 13, 2015 at 12:01 AM
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 US Senate Report Takes Aim at Gilead for High Drug Costs

A Senate report said that Gilead Sciences aggressively priced its innovative hepatitis C treatments to pad its bottom line without regard to patient access or affordability.

The report, by a pair of senior US senators, takes aim at Gilead's cash-cow drug, Sovaldi, which has been priced at $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a single course of treatment for hepatitis C.

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The lofty price set by Gilead placed Sovaldi and its follow-up drug Harvoni out of reach to many consumers and put undue pressure on public health programs forced to pay for the drugs to treat the most dire cases, the report said.

"Gilead pursued a calculated scheme for pricing and marketing its hepatitis C drug based on one primary goal -- maximizing revenue, regardless of the human consequences," said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who released the report. "Gilead knew these prices would put treatment out of the reach of millions and cause extraordinary problems for Medicare and Medicaid, but still the company went ahead."
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Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who joined Wyden in the study, said he hoped the report would spur debate on drug pricing given the importance of federal programs that pay for prescription drugs. Medicare spent nearly $8.2 billion in an 18-month period on Sovaldi and Harvoni before rebates, the report said.

"I look forward to discussions with my colleagues and the public on the policy questions in the report," Grassley said. "I encourage everyone to read the report for the level of detail into pricing strategy that we don't often see."

Gilead Sciences did not immediately respond to queries. The report comes as pharmaceutical companies face rising scrutiny in the wake of public outrage at runaway drug prices. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in September she would take action if elected to reign in prices.

She was reacting to news that Turing Pharmaceutical raised the price on Daraprim, a long-existing treatment for toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 per pill to $750 after Turing acquired the rights to the drug.

On Tuesday, pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts announced it would partner with Imprimis Pharmaceuticals on a $1 per pill alternative to Daraprim. "Our goal is always to put medicine within reach by making it more affordable and accessible," said Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts.

Source: AFP
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