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FAQ: The High Cost of Hepatitis C Drugs

Q: What's the future likely to hold, and will prices decline? continued...

One oral drug under development, known as ABT-450, cured more than 95% of patients, even in some who weren't helped by other treatments. The study results were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in London Thursday and published in the New England Journal of Medicine online. The study was funded by AbbVie, the maker of the new drug.

Also this weekend, scientists reported positive results using Sovaldi in combination with another Gilead drug, ledipasvir. Those results were published in the April 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

An editorial in the same issue of the journal describes the results as “exciting” but says, "The major limitation remaining [to treatment] will be economic." Using current cost estimates, the experts say, treating even half of the infected people in the U.S. ''would add billions of dollars to an already overburdened medical care system."

But pressure to lower those costs is increasing.

Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager that handles more than 1 billion U.S. prescriptions a year, is planning a boycott of Sovaldi when less expensive drugs become available.

''While we are waiting for those competitive products to come to market, Express Scripts will continue to cover Sovaldi for the patients who need it," says Riddhi Trivedi-St. Clair, a company spokesperson.


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