Sovaldi is a breakthrough drug for Hepatitis C patients, but some say the cost places a huge burden on everyone.

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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It's been called a breakthrough drug to treat hepatitis C. Sovaldi was approved last year by the Food and Drug Adminstration and experts say it has a 90% cure rate.

Bill Remak tells KPIX-TV in San Francisco about his struggles with hepatitis C, "I've had two liver transplants and I still have the virus and this offers me the possibility to be free of this illness."

Hepatitis C affects the liver spreading from person-to-person through blood contact. It causes inflammation of the liver and eventually scarring. It can eventually lead to liver cancer and then death.

Sovaldi is very effective in treating hepatitis C. But the pill comes at a huge cost, $1,000 per pill to be taken over 12 weeks.

Express Scripts Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Steve Miller says the cost will put a huge burden on most states, health plans, and you the taxpayer. He accuses drug maker, Gilead, of generating enormous profits on the backs of Americans.

Dr. Miller says, "The trouble is there's 3-million patients in the United States that have hepatitis C. If the treatment regimen currently costs over $100,000 per person, to treat everyone in the United States we are talking about spending over $300 billion dollars."

"The exact same drug in Egypt is $900 for a full course of therapy, so less than one pill in America," adds Dr. Miller.

Sovaldi's manufacturer, Gilead, sent a statement to WUSA9:

"We believe the price of Sovaldi reflects the value of the medicine. Sovaldi-containing regimens represent a cure – they reduce the total treatment costs for HCV, taking into account the cost of medications (including those for side effects or complications) and healthcare visits, and the costs of managing patients who progress to more advanced liver disease.

The use of Sovaldi to date reflects recognition within the medical community of the benefits this product can bring to patients suffering from HCV. Since December, more than 70,000 patients in the United States and 10,000 patients in Europe have been treated with Sovaldi. Sovaldi offers higher cure rates with shortened treatment duration at a cost that is comparable to that of alternative treatment options.

Ensuring patient access to Sovaldi – and to all our medicines – is a top priority for Gilead. In the U.S., we have one of the most comprehensive patient assistance programs in the industry to help ensure cost is not a barrier for patients. The components of that program include providing coupons to bring the co-pay down to as low as $5 per month, and paying the entire cost for the eligible uninsured. We also provide financial support to an independent non-profit organization offering assistance for patients who cannot cover their out-of-pocket medication costs. On the payer front, most commercial, Medicare part D, and state Medicaid plans take a full six months to review new drugs, and we are working with these payers to facilitate patient accessibility to Sovaldi."

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have requested information from Gilead to justify the price for Solvadi, Gilead says they will supply the information that Congress needs.

Gilead announced a huge jump in profits for the second quarter of this year.
$6.5 billion dollars, compared to $2.7 billion last year.

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