The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday approved a new hepatitis C pill by Gilead Sciences Inc to treat the liver-destroying viral infection at a cost of USD 94,500 for a 12-week course.
The drug, to be sold under brand name Harvoni, will be combined with Gilead’s two other drugs -Sovaldi worth USD 84,000 and Ledipasvir.
The company said that the new drug will also be replacing the need for two other forms of treatments that causes side-effect when taken along with Sovaldi.
The company has been facing severe criticism from the health insurers and health groups for keeping the high cost of its hepatitis C treatments. With the new pill, Gilead has tried to mollify the criticisms.
According to the company, its current regimen of Sovaldi and the older drugs, ribavirin and interferon, is worth USD 94,726.
Primarily emphasizing upon an attractive price tag, Gilead says the new pill is far less than the current regimen.
The insurers and other payers are, however, skeptical about the cost as they believe it is still unsustainable.
The patients will have to pay USD 63,000 for availing eight weeks treatment with the new pill, the company said.
“Unfortunately, we believe that the price being demanded is still inappropriately high for a product targeting such a large group of patients. New innovations do not always require inappropriate and premium pricing,” said David Whitrap, spokesperson for Express Scripts Holding Co, America’s largest manager of pharmacy benefit programs.
Meanwhile, the drug maker is expecting nearly USD 12 billion revenue from the new hepatitis C pill sales worldwide in 2014.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that causes liver inflammation and can also lead to the organ failure. The disease is estimated to infect about 3.2 million Americans this year.
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