Sovaldi( Photo: Reuters )
The next generation version of Gilead Sciences Inc's $84,000 hepatitis C drug, already under fire for its record-breaking costs, is going to be even more expensive.
Gregg Alton, Gilead's executive vice president of corporate and medical affairs, declined to give an exact price for the new medicine, the first all-oral treatment for the virus which is expected to launch next month.
The total cost of the current treatment is $95,000, which includes Sovaldi and two older medicines, ribavirin and interferon, according to Gilead.
The price of the new drug would be based on that cost, Alton said in an interview. "We are going to price this fixed-dose regimen based on those costs," Alton said. "We do plan on launching a better product without having a significant premium."
The drugmaker is expected to rake in nearly $12 billion in hepatitis C drug sales worldwide in 2014. Sovaldi sales have been unprecedented for any drug in its first year on the market.
Gilead expects savings for some patients in its pricing scheme. It said that nearly half of hepatitis C patients - previously untreated, healthier individuals - can be cured after eight weeks of using the new pill, compared with 12 weeks for the current Sovaldi regimen.
That would effectively cut the treatment cost by one-third for such patients. U.S. health regulators are due to decide by Oct. 10 whether to approve the new drug, a pill that combines Sovaldi with the experimental therapy ledipasvir and eliminates the need for other treatments. It has been shown to cure up to 99 percent of patients versus 90 percent for Sovaldi plus ribavirin and interferon, which also cause hard-to-tolerate side effects.