Three top Democrats in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives yesterday requested Gilead Sciences CEO John C. Martin Ph.D. give them “a briefing” on the pricing of the company’s new chronic Hepatitis C virus treatment Sovaldi™ (sofosbuvir) 400 mg tablets, complaining about “the extraordinary high cost of your drug.”
“Our concern is that a treatment will not cure patients if they cannot afford it,” the three Democrats said in a letter to Dr. Martin. The three are Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), ranking member of the panel’s Subcommittee on Health; and Diana DeGette (D-CO), ranking member of the committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
They cited news reports that Gilead plans to charge $84,000 per 12-week treatment for Sovaldi, which won FDA approval in December after six months. That cost could nearly double when Sovaldi is combined with other drugs, the House Democrats said.
“These costs are likely to be too high for many patients, both those with public insurance and those with private insurance,” Reps. Waxman, Pallone and DeGette wrote.
Gilead has noted that the cost of the drug is lower than the cost of complications associated with hepatitis C treatment, such as liver damage or liver failure: “In our conversations with payers, pricing is a consideration, but efficacy, safety and treatment guidelines are equally important,” Gilead COO John Milligan told Bloomberg in January.
Sovaldi is a once-daily oral nucleotide analog polymerase inhibitor designed to block a specific protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to replicate. Sovaldi is the first drug that has shown the safety and efficacy to treat certain types of HCV infection without the need for injection of interferon at the same time.
Sovaldi won FDA’s priority review and breakthrough therapy designations, granted to investigational medicines deemed to offer major advances in treatment over existing options.
“It is our hope that Sovaldi will mark the beginning of a new era in hepatitis C treatment,” Dr. Martin declared at the time in a statement.