Cost of Sovaldi and other specialty drugs worries states, pharmaceutical executives

News outlets continue to examine how Solvadi - usually an expensive cure for hepatitis-C - might affect budgets.

The Wall Street Journal: Lucrative Drug Niche Sparks Legal Scramble
The pharmaceutical industry's battle for dominance in the fast-growing and lucrative market for treatments of hepatitis C is prompting an unprecedented legal scramble. The prospect that hepatitis-C drug sales could soar to $20 billion annually by the end of the decade is spurring attempts by drug companies to assert the patent rights they'll need to grab a piece of the pie (Loftus, 7/20).

Politico Pro: Report: Look At Overall Impact, Not Pill Price, Of Costly Drugs
Debate over the costly new drug treatment for hepatitis C is focused on the $1,000 a pill price tag, but the real issue is the total impact on the health care system and how to systematically deal with it, CVS officials write in a commentary published Sunday. Gilead's Sovaldi "is not really a per-unit cost outlier, but is a 'total cost' outlier because of its high cost combined with a very large population eligible for treatment -; and a beacon for costs of specialty medications generally," CVS Chief Medical Officer Troyen Brennan and Chief Scientific Officer William Shrank argue in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The total cost of treatment -; about $84,000 just for the course of Sovaldi -; is high. When multiplied by the estimated 3 million Americans who have the disease, the potential magnitude comes into focus: $250 billion (Norman, 7/20).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hepatitis Drug Would Cost Missouri $1 Billion, Says Express Scripts
A new hepatitis C drug could cripple state budgets, costing the country $55 billion to treat 750,000 people with government insurance, according to an analysis by Express Scripts. Missouri would need to pay out $1 billion and Illinois $2.3 billion to treat all of the states' residents with hepatitis C who are either in prison or receive Medicaid benefits. The drug, Sovaldi, costs $1,000 per pill or $84,000 for a 12-week regimen. The drug's researchers at St. Louis University say the drug can eliminate the virus in up to 95 percent of patients (Bernhard, 7/18).

The Boston Globe: Specialty Drugs Save, Transform Lives -; But At A Cost
Every year, Cora Higson fills out a sheaf of forms and waits several long, anxious days to learn whether a charity will pay for the drug she needs to breathe. The medication -; Tracleer -; is so essential, Higson says, that she is supposed to call her doctor immediately if she misses a dose. But her share of the cost is a whopping $1,111.47 per month. ... A quarter of the 40,000 Massachusetts residents who sought help last year from the National Patient Advocate Foundation said their biggest problem was affording the out-of-pocket cost of pharmaceuticals (Freyer, 7/21).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



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