Hepatitis C treatment no longer means daily injections and low cure rates that characterized the disease in the past. Now, newer oral drugs on the market require only a 12-week course, but their prices are shocking. Gilead Sciences has two drugs for hepatitis C, both costing astronomical amounts: one drug, Harvoni, costs $95,500 for 12 weeks, and the other, Sovaldi, costs $84,000. That’s $1,000 per pill.
But for the 3.2 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis C, a liver disease primarily spread via the blood of an infected person, a new business deal may mean more affordable care.
Another drug called Viekira Pak, developed by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, got the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday, Dec. 19. But many were disappointed upon discovering that the drug would cost $83,319 for a 12-week course, only slightly less than Sovaldi. The medical community had hoped that market competition would drive prices much, much lower.
That hope may soon become a reality, though. A new business deal between AbbVie and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts may lower the costs much further. As the New York Times reports, Express Scripts has negotiated a large discount from AbbVie. In return, Express Scripts will make Viekira Pak the exclusive drug option for the 25 million people it serves.
As the Times reports, Express Scripts’ chief medical officer Dr. Steve Miller has been one of the loudest proponents for cheaper prices for hepatitis drugs, given that they’ve become too expensive for some individuals and insurance providers.
The agreed-upon discount has not yet been released, but the hope is that it’s significant enough that the deal could lead other drug makers to lower their costs in response.