The battle over market share for the three newest and costliest hepatitis C drugs continues. And this time, Gilead Sciences wins the round.
CVS Health, one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit managers, said this week it will exclusively offer patients seeking treatment for hepatitis C the option of choosing Sovaldi or Harvoni, both of which are manufactured by Gilead Sciences.
It's unclear at this time whether CVS is getting a discount on the drugs.
The news comes just weeks after Viekira Pak, a competing drug developed by AbbVie, received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Express Scripts, the largest PBM in the U.S. and a critic of Sovaldi's $84,000 price tag, announced in December that it would only offer Viekira Pak to its enrollees and would stop covering Gilead's drugs.
About 3 million Americans have hepatitis C, which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. Within six months of Sovaldi's arrival in the U.S. market, about 80,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe are estimated to have started treatment on the drug.
There are four new drugs—Sovaldi, Harvoni, Viekira Pak and Johnson & Johnson's Olysio—that make up a new class of treatments for hepatitis C with significantly higher cure rates than past treatments. They are also easier to administer and are expected to have fewer side effects. But the prices of the drugs and the overall costs to the healthcare system have raised the ire of insurers and PBMs as well as state and federal payers.
A course of treatment costs $66,000 for Olysio, $84,000 for Sovaldi, $94,500 for Harvoni. The newly approved Viekira Pak costs about $83,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sovaldi and Olysio generated 3.3% of total prescription drug spending for patients younger than 65 years old who have employer-sponsored insurance in the months spanning the fourth quarter of 2013, when both drugs received FDA approval, to the second quarter of 2014, according to new data from Truven Health Analytics.
However, patients who undergo new therapies are expected to avoid future liver transplants, which the companies have argued will reduce healthcare costs in the long run.
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