KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High Cost Of Potent Hepatitis Drug Presents Challenges Across The U.S.

Sovaldi, the hepatitis C treatment drug, is considered a breakthrough for patients with the disease. However, since it won federal approval in December, lawmakers, insurers and patient advocates have begun an all-out revolt over its high price point of $1,000 a daily pill or $84,000 over 12 weeks of treatment. 

The San Francisco Chronicle:  Cost Of Highly Effective Hepatitis Drug Spurs Revolt
The nation may have finally met a drug it cannot afford. Sovaldi is a long-awaited breakthrough for the 3 million Americans suffering from the hepatitis C virus. And at $1,000 a daily pill, or $84,000 over 12 weeks of treatment, the medication could generate as much as $19 billion nationwide in revenue in the next three years for maker Gilead Sciences in Foster City. Since Sovaldi won federal approval in December, lawmakers, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and patient advocates have begun an all-out revolt. The dissent might represent a potential breaking point for a health care regime used to paying out gobs of money for breakthrough drugs, industry officials and analysts say (Lee, 4/12).

Reuters:  Texas Medicaid Holds Off On Proposed Limits For Gilead Hepatitis Drug
Texas is reconsidering whether to impose strict limits on Gilead Sciences' $84,000 hepatitis C treatment for patients on the state's Medicaid health plan for the poor, at the urging of outside advisers, a state official said on Friday.  The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees Medicaid, had proposed a policy to allow the drug, Sovaldi, to be used mainly for sicker patients such as those whose hepatitis C had developed into advanced liver disease, according to state documents reviewed by Reuters (Humer, 4/11).

Los Angeles Times: New Drugs Provide Cure For Hepatitis C, Research Finds
Twenty-five years after scientists first identified the hepatitis C virus, doctors are declaring victory over an infection that afflicts more than 3 million Americans and kills more of them than HIV. In a series of clinical trial results, a new generation of antiviral medications was able to clear the liver-ravaging virus from virtually all patients' bloodstreams in as little as eight weeks. Even in patients with the most stubborn infections, the new drugs were capable of suppressing the virus completely at rates well over 90%. The treatments, however, come with a steep price tag (Healy, 4/11). 

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