$1,000 Pill Now Leading Treatment for Hepatitis C

From the WebMD Archives

July 30, 2014 -- Despite a price tag of $1,000 per pill, and $84,000 for a full course of treatment, the new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi has quickly become the therapy of choice for patients infected with the liver-destroying virus, new data shows.

Sovaldi, which only became available in December, is taken for 12 weeks and effectively cures hepatitis C infection.

According to data from IMS Health, U.S. prescriptions for hepatitis C medications jumped from 6,200 during the month of May in 2013 to more than 48,000 in May of this year -- with three-quarters of prescriptions being written for Sovaldi, the Associated Press reported.

About 62,000 new patients tried Sovaldi within the first 30 weeks of its approval, making it the most successful new hepatitis C drug ever, the AP said.

But the drug's high price tag has stirred controversy. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have asked maker Gilead Sciences Inc. to justify the cost of Sovaldi. According to AP, 2011 filings with federal market regulators by Pharmasset, the company that originally developed Sovaldi, estimated the cost of a course of treatment at $36,000. Gilead later went on to acquire Pharmasset.

However, Gilead vice president Gregg Alton defended the $84,000 price tag for the drug. Speaking recently at a public forum supported by the American Enterprise Institute, he said that "to suggest that a cure for a disease like hepatitis C should be priced at $36,000 . . . would put a huge disincentive on investing in cures for our industry."