Breakthrough Hepatitis C Treatment Costs $84,000 in CA, $900 in Egypt

A groundbreaking medication called Sovaldi can completely cure those infected with Hepatitis C, although the price tag has generated controversy and calls from healthcare leaders for a closer look at how pharmaceutical companies price their products, according to a report from CaliforniaHealthLine.org.

The cost of the medication is reportedly $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a full, 12-week course of treatment. The drug's manufacturer, Foster City-based Gilead Sciences, is offering the drug in Egypt for $900, a 99% discount. Egypt has the most reported cases of Hepatits C in the world.  

Gregg Alton, a Gilead Sciences executive, explained the discount in an email to Reuters: "We believe Sovaldi could have a major impact on public health in Egypt, which has the highest prevalence rate of Hepatitis C in the world."

There is no denying the innovative nature of the medicine. In a report from October of last year, Emory University pharmacologist Raymond Schinazi told Nature.com that "this is the first time in the history of humankind that we have a cure for a viral disease." According to that report, when Sovaldi is taken in combination with a drug called ribavirin, the medication can completely eliminate Hepatitis C in 80% of all cases.

Still, the medication's prohibitively expensive price point is concerning to lawmakers and patient advocacy groups. According to sales forecasts from Thomson Reuters Pharma, Gilead Sciences stands to earn as much as $9.1 billion from the drug as soon as 2017.

"This is not just an issue for California or even a national issue, this is a worldwide issue," California Association of Health Plans executive Charles Bacchi told CaliforniaHealthLine.org. "What Gilead is doing is stretching the outer limits of what we've seen before."

According to the World Health Organization, over 150 million people worldwide have Hepatitis C; in the United States, three million people are infected with the disease.

A recent report from Bloomberg says that from a financial standpoint, Sovaldi is the "best drug introduction in history," beating first-quarter sales estimates by $1 billion.


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