Gilead Sciences, based in California, is the maker of a breakthrough hepatitis C drug. It has put its profits in front of patients in pricing its pill that cures the disease that eats away at the liver, at $1,000 per dose, said investigators from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
A Senate Finance Committee bipartisan report has concluded that the drug maker has been more focused on maximizing its revenue as their own analysis by the company showed a price that was lower would allow additional patients to receive the treatment.
Although this report focused on only one drug that has made the headlines over the past couple of years, lawmakers who were in charge of the investigation said the findings were a warning about what was to come with other treatments that are high-priced for HIV, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer.
Ron Wyden a Senator from Oregon said it was the future and the future was going to be all about specialty drugs. Gilead in a prepared statement said it did not agree with the conclusions of the report.
The first breakthrough pill for the company was Sovaldi, which is priced at $1,000 a pill equal to $84,000 for a complete treatment. Gilead since has introduced a next-generation, more expensive pill known as Harvoni, which is very effective and simpler to take for patients. This pill costs $94,500 for the compete course.
The statement released by the company said that Gilead thoughtfully and responsibly priced Harvoni and Sovaldi, noting that over 600,000 patients were treated worldwide since two years ago when Sovaldi was introduced.
However, two senators, Wyden and Chuck Grassley said their investigation of 18-months found the price tag significantly limited access by patients and heaped massive costs on state and federal healthcare programs.
A minimum of 27 state programs of Medicaid restricted the use of Sovaldi for just the sickest of patients.
Hepatitis C affects over 3 million people across the U.S. The viral infection claims more lives in the U.S. than does AIDS. Patients said the disease feels as if you have a bad flu that will never go away.
The illness gradually advances and can ultimately destroy the patient’s liver, with a transplant required to save the life of the patient.
The virus is spread primarily by coming into contact with infected blood.