WASHINGTON — The price is sky-high, but so is demand. A new $1,000-per-pill drug has become the treatment of choice for Americans with hepatitis C, a liver-wasting disease that affects
more than 3 million.
Even with insurers reluctant to pay, Sovaldi prescriptions have eclipsed those for all other hepatitis C pills combined in a matter of months, new data from IMS Health indicate. The promise of a real cure, with fewer nasty side effects, has prompted thousands to get treated.
But clinical and commercial successes are triggering scrutiny for the drug's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc.
Two senators have unearthed documents that suggest the initial developers of Sovaldi considered pricing it at less than half as much. The health insurance industry is publicly scolding Gilead, and state Medicaid programs are pushing back.
The repercussions go beyond one drug and one disease. A number of promising cancer medications near approval could be drawn into the storm over costs.