Philly's Transit System Sues Gilead for "Price-Gouging" Price of Hepatitis C Drug
December 16, 2014
SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, has filed a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences, Inc., over the $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C drug Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as reported by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The suit seeks class-action status, subject to certification by a judge, as well as monetary damages from Gilead, alleging "price-gouging."
SEPTA operates public transit in the Philadelphia area. In the lawsuit, it explains that it has spent "at least $2.4 million on Sovaldi this year for members of the health plans it funds for employees and retirees," the WSJ reported.
According to the WSJ, Nicholas E. Chimicles, who is a lawyer working on behalf of SEPTA, said Gilead is "bleeding health and welfare plans around the country."
Sovaldi is the first hepatitis C drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that doesn't need to be injected. It has been shown to be able to cure genotype 1 hepatitis (the most common and hardest to treat type) in three to six months, with relatively minor side effects compared to earlier standard treatments containing interferon. In October, the FDA approved Harvoni, a new hepatitis C drug that combines Sovaldi with ledipasvir in a single pill to be taken once daily; it costs about $94,500 for a 12-week course of treatment.
Gilead's pricing of the 12-week regimen of Sovaldi at approximately $84,000, or $1,000 per pill, in the U.S. is being investigated by the Senate Finance Committee, "which has questioned if the market for Sovaldi 'is working efficiently and rationally,' and whether 'payors of health care ... can carry such a load,'" as noted by SEPTA in its press release.
SEPTA explains, "While there are some orphan drugs that are similarly expensive, they are typically limited to rare conditions that affect only a very small patient population. In those instances, charging high prices may be necessary to recoup amounts invested in research and development. In the case of Sovaldi, however, there are between 2.7 and 5.2 million people in the United States infected with hepatitis C, and 185 million people worldwide."
SEPTA's suit charges that the price of Sovaldi could bankrupt parts of the health care system, prevent sick patients from accessing the drug, and have a disproportionate impact on the minorities and low-income people who are most likely to have hepatitis C. In its press release, SEPTA also notes that Gilead has recorded "an astounding $8.5 billion in Sovaldi sales" in just the first three quarters of 2014. Thus, SEPTA believes that the pricing of Sovaldi cannot be defended by patent rights.
Sue Saltmarsh has worked in the HIV/AIDS field for over 20 years, the first 10 as an herbalist and energy therapist at Project Vida, the last six as a writer and copy editor for Positively Aware magazine. She is now a freelance writer and editor and is also able to devote more time to her passion as founder and director of the Drive for Universal Healthcare (DUH).
Copyright © 2014 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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