Gilead Faces Lawsuit Over High Price of Hepatitis C Drug
On Tuesday, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority filed a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences, alleging the drugmaker is charging "exorbitant" prices for its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi in violation of federal antitrust laws, Reuters reports.
Sovaldi costs about $1,000 per pill (Pierson, Reuters, 12/10). The drug's cost has been the subject of criticism from America's Health Insurance Plans, has elicited concern from physicians and federal researchers, and has stretched state Medicaid budgets (California Healthline, 10/21).
Details of Suit
SEPTA said it has paid upward of $2.4 million for Sovaldi for its employees. It argues in the suit that Gilead's "limited rights as a patent holder do not translate into a license to price gouge consumers" (Reuters, 12/10). SEPTA is seeking class-action status in the suit on behalf of any U.S. resident or entity who purchased Sovaldi or has not been able to get the drug (Loftus, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).
According to Modern Healthcare, an estimated three million U.S. residents have chronic hepatitis C. The suit alleges that because the disease affects such a large number of people, Gilead does not need to charge so much for the drug. The complaint notes, "Unlike other specialty drugs that come with comparable hefty price tags -- but only affect a small number of patients -- there are several million Americans living with hepatitis C that could benefit from this drug." It continues, "If Gilead's conduct is left unchecked, many of these patients will never get access to this drug and, in those cases where they do, third-party pay[e]rs like [SEPTA] will continue to pay exorbitant prices for Sovaldi" (Schnecker, Modern Healthcare, 12/10).
Further, the suit alleges that the price of Sovaldi in the U.S. is discriminatory, because Gilead has provided discounts on the treatment in developing countries, such as India. The complaint alleges, "While rolling out its self-congratulatory marketing campaign about how the company is making this lifesaving drug available in third-world countries, Gilead has been simultaneously gouging its U.S.-based consumers and third-party payers of the drug" (Wall Street Journal, 12/10).
SEPTA is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages in the suit (Reuters, 12/10).
Ben Johns -- a partner at Chimicles & Tikellis, which is representing SEPTA -- said, "Over time, the health care system will save a lot of money" if hepatitis C patients can be "healthy again." He noted that Sovaldi "is an extraordinary drug, and we would like to do everything that can be done to make sure this gets out to people that need it and can benefit from it without potentially bankrupting segments of the health care industry" (Modern Healthcare, 12/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.