This Hepatitis C Drug, Developed with U.S. Government-Funded Research, Costs $300 per Treatment Course in India…and $84,000 in the U.S.
A breakthrough in treating hepatitis C costs almost 300 times more in the United States than it does in India, a disparity made all the more outrageous by the fact that the U.S. government helped fund the research responsible for the drug.
The drug, marketed as Sovaldi by Gilead Sciences, costs about $84,000 for a 12-week regimen in the U.S. The generic version of the drug, sofosbuvir, costs $300 for the same treatment in India. That country refused to grant patent protection to Gilead for Sovaldi.
The cost to produce the drug is in the range of $68 to $136. “In other words, the U.S. price-cost markup is roughly 1,000-to-1!” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, wrote at Huffington Post.
Sovaldi was developed by a drug company startup, Pharmasset Inc., founded by Emory University professor Raymond Schinazi. Schinazi had some help along the way, receiving research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and support from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That government assistance helped Pharmasset get into a position to sell Sovaldi to Gilead for $11.2 billion.
A European charity, Medecins du Monde (MDM), is challenging the patent there. “We are defending universal access to healthcare: the struggle against health inequality involves safeguarding a healthcare system based on solidarity,” MDM French program director Jean-Francois Corty said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Even in a ‘rich’ country like France, with an annual medicines budget of 27 billion euros, it is difficult to meet this cost. We are seeing an arbitrary rationing approach that excludes patients from care, and this is unacceptable.”
Pharmaceutical companies often justify high prices for drugs by citing high development costs. However, Sachs wrote that private-sector costs to develop Sovaldi were no more than $500 million, which would mean Gilead made that back in a few months.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
The Drug That Is Bankrupting America (by Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post)
Gilead Faces Sovaldi Patent Challenge in Europe by a Non-Profit Group (by Ed Silverman, Wall Street Journal)
Prisoners with Hepatitis C Can't Get Expensive Drug that Actually Works (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Expensive New Hepatitis C Medicine, Seen as Harbinger of Specialty Drugs to Come, Poses Challenge to Health Care System (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
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