Cost of New Drug Sovaldi Tough to Swallow

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Hepatitis C is a potentially deadly chronic liver disease that affects approximately 3 million Americans.  Conventional therapies often fail to control the infection, but a breakthrough new medication, Sovaldi, provides an estimated cure rate of 90%.  The problem with this wonder drug is the cost – $1000 per pill.  A treatment regimen in the United States would cost $84,000 and well over $100,000 with ancillary services and medications included.

The cost of Sovaldi is much lower in other countries, such as Egypt or India, and may cost as little as $900 for a full treatment.  Thus, the cost of Sovaldi is over 93 times greater in the United States.  We cannot afford such an expense.  The United States already spends more on prescription drugs per capita than any other country by at least 40% (see graph).  Such specialty drugs account for 1% of prescriptions, but will soon account for 50% of drug spending costs.

No one wants to deny a sick person medication that can help, but with healthcare spending out of control and rising at more than twice the rate of inflation, such high prices are untenable.  Also, while the US may be a wealthy country as a whole, there are many low-income persons who may lack insurance or have high insurance co-pays they cannot afford.  The practice of letting drug manufacturers set any price for their product without negotiation needs to stop.  The cost of the drug should be brought down to a level comparable with that of other developed nations, which do prevent outrageous pricing.  All nations should pay their fair share for drug research and development.

Pharmaceuticals-1

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5 Responses to “Cost of New Drug Sovaldi Tough to Swallow”

  1. jabalsewicz Says:

    It is amazing that the drug cost varies significantly between various countries. I would question how many Americans would decide to purchase the drug here instead of overseas. Similar to transplant tourism between the Philippines and China, I could envision Americans going overseas to purchase the new drugs. However, this will come with its own significant challenges as we will then treat patients who are receiving drugs from outside sources that we cannot verify nor have control over.

    I also wonder about the disparity of costs between the insured and uninsured. It would be fascinating to know what the average insured patient will pay because I would imagine insurance companies are unlikely to accept the high cost.

    Great post!

  2. sseopaul Says:

    Wow.

    Like Jeff, I could see many people who need the drug turning to other sources. They would not even necessarily have to travel to the other countries. With the advent of the internet you can purchase almost anything online, and though the price may be inflated, I assume it would still be a lot cheaper than $1000 per pill.

    It is absolutely insane that life saving drugs can be patent protected and sold as such an exorbitant price. I understand needing to recoup the money invested in the research and production, but $1000 per pill. There needs to be some regulation of this.

    “We have set three basic pricing tiers [based on a country’s per capita income and hepatitis C prevalence] that serve as the starting point for negotiations with national governments. The tiers are low-income, low middle-income and upper-middle income,” Gregg Alton, a Gilead executive vice president for corporate and medical affairs, tells the paper.” <— this is a quote from one of the articles you referenced. And while in theory I understand a tier system, I think there is an underlying false assumption that people in a higher "tiered" country can afford such expensive drugs. This is absolutely not the case. It's interesting that most people probably think of undeveloped countries getting the short end of the stick in these deals, but we forget it can happen to developed nations as well.

  3. sarahmarshall2014 Says:

    The US may be a very wealthy nation relative to many other nations; however, there are still many low-income persons in the United States. These people may have trouble accessing such a medication due to lack of insurance and lack of money to pay out of pocket. Thank you for your comments.

    I think there are difficulties for US residents buying drugs in other countries, such as import laws. I saw a news story recently about FedEx getting in trouble for shipping medications. If anyone has more info please share.

  4. alexadamsrph Says:

    Certainly the cost of the medication is eye-popping, but it’s cost should not be looked at in a vacuum. It’s estimated that a liver transplant costs $580,000, by comparison, and there’s a report that predicts the medication will thus lower overall healthcare costs over time (http://online.wsj.com/articles/beggar-thy-neighbor-medicine-1406245356). When considering any policy, it will thus be important to consider the time horizon.

  5. visa9 Says:

    Public Health care with its main focus on primary prevention can neither compete with these figures for attention nor impact. Hence the dilemma faced by the US population and government. The incentives need to be aligned for health rather than medical care or medication for true solutions to appear to improve health.

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