The prescription drug benefit arm of CVS said Monday that it will exclusively cover two costly hepatitis C drugs that were until recently the only oral treatments available for the disease, following moves by a competitor to cover an alternative drug.
Hepatitis C treatment has gone from a miserable process of daily injections to simple daily pills in recent years. But the cost of these new pills are exorbitant. One of the first companies to hit the mark with oral treatments, Gilead Sciences, offers two drugs for hepatitis C: Harvoni costs $95,500 for 12 weeks, and Sovaldi, costs $84,000. That’s $1,000 per pill.
But as TIME reported last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new hepatitis C drug called Viekira Pak, developed by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie. At $83,319 for a 12-week course it’s only slightly less than what Gilead offers. The hope had been that more competition would drive down prices. In an effort to do just that, pharmacy benefit manager—and CVS competitor—Express Scripts negotiated a discount for Viekira Pak in exchange for making the drug the exclusive offering for its 25 million customers.
Now CVS has made a similar deal with Gilead Sciences, CNBC reports. It will offer the companies’ drugs exclusively for it’s customers, though it’s unclear whether the drugs will indeed be discounted.
“Our goal was to create the lowest net-cost solution for the entire population of patients with all genotypes of hepatitis C,” said CVS Health spokesperson Chris Cramer. “When making this decision, we evaluated a wide variety of factors including duration of therapy, relative distribution of genotype and cost of the individual agents in the category as well as the results of a comprehensive clinical review of the different hepatitis C regimens.”
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