AIDS organization cites Gilead Sciences as a leading catalyst in spurring AHF to broaden its years-long advocacy efforts to rein in runaway drug pricing and for it to now join with the National Coalition on Health Care and others in a new campaign urging the pharmaceutical industry to establish new pricing models that could continue to support drug company innovation while keeping their lifesaving products affordable.
The Bay Area drug company drew outrage—and Congressional scrutiny—by pricing its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment—or $1,000 per pill. Pharmasset, the company that developed Sovaldi—and for which Gilead paid $11 billion cash—intended to price the drug at $36,000.
WASHINGTON (September 16, 2014) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization and an outspoken advocate against runaway drug pricing for lifesaving HIV/AIDS and other medications, has teamed with the National Coalition on Health Care and others on the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing’ to spotlight what the group characterizes as “unsustainable and abusive” prices for some medicines. The campaign, which first launched in May, “…aims to spark a national dialogue about the need to find market-based solutions to the problems caused by the onslaught of new high-priced prescription medicines.”
Since its launch, the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing’ has been doing just that: prompting or being part of a national debate about drug pricing—including the August 29th publication in the Wall Street Journal of a letter-to-the-editor by NCHC President and CEO John Rother criticizing the $84,000 price of Gilead Sciences’ new Hepatitis C medication. In response to an August 20th WSJ editorial defending the high price of the new drug, Rother, on behalf of the campaign, wrote that there was ‘No Justification for Sovaldi’s Price.’
The Bay Area pharmaceutical company drew outrage—and Congressional scrutiny—by pricing its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment—or $1,000 per pill. According to a July 14th news posting on the website FiercePharma, Pharmasset, the company that initially developed Sovaldi, and for which Gilead paid $11 billion in cash, had intended to price the drug at $36,000 for the twelve week course of hepatitis treatment—less than half of what Gilead ultimately priced the drug at after it purchased the smaller drug company.
“We are excited to join with such like-minded organizations and individuals in the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing’ to work together to bring about greater transparency and real change in how the drug industry prices its lifesaving prescription medicines,’ said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Gilead Sciences was the leading catalyst for AHF to join with the National Coalition on Health Care and others in this new campaign to urge the industry to establish new pricing models that could continue to support drug company innovation while keeping their lifesaving products affordable. We are pleased to broaden our years-long advocacy efforts to rein in runaway drug pricing by partnering in this new national campaign and coalition.”
“People should know that Gilead’s $84,000 drug Sovaldi is also only one portion of a two-drug, twelve-week combination treatment for Hepatitis C, which affects an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States. The two-drug combo actually pushes the treatment cost to close to $100,000 per patient—a price point that is simply not sustainable, short or long-term,” said Timothy Boyd, Director of Domestic Policy for AHF. “Gilead’s long history of predatory pricing on its lifesaving medications—first on its HIV drugs, and now, for this new hepatitis medication—set the stage for groups like AHF to join the ‘Campaign on Sustainable Rx Pricing’ as well as for direct action from government officials and drug purchasers for government programs seeking to compel Gilead and others in the industry to price their products fairly.”
In addition to its pricing and policies on Sovaldi, in late 2012, within days of FDA-approval of Gilead’s four-in-one AIDS treatment combination Stribild, the company quickly priced that AIDS treatment at $28,500 per patient, per year, Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC)—a whopping 37% more than the price of Gilead’s best-selling three-in-one AIDS treatment, Atripla. “For the record, $28,500 is more than most U.S. AIDS patients earn in any given year,” said Dale R. Gluth, Bay Area Regional Director for AHF. “We believe in strength in numbers—not those of sky high drug prices—but in the numbers of partners joining the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing—to speak up and act to rein the industry’s runaway drug pricing.”
Gilead did not even pay to research and develop Sovaldi. In 2011—for $11 billion in cash—it purchased Pharmasset, the company that had already developed the drug. Advocates now believe the pricing of Sovaldi is being driven by Gilead’s desire to recoup its financial investment in Pharmasset, and assumes it can accomplish this by charging Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded programs whatever it wants.
As the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing’ continues to grow, news came late last week via Reuters that Gilead will introduce a new—and first all-oral treatment for the hepatitis virus—which is expected to launch next month and is expected to cost event more than the current $84,000 Sovaldi formulation which is prescribed and taken with either ribavirin and interferon, older medications that must be injected.
“We clearly have our work cut out for us, however, I have no doubt that the growing coalition that makes up the ‘Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing’ is up to the task,” added AHF’s Weinstein.