Aetna has agreed to a deal with Gilead Sciences to give preference to the drugmaker's hepatitis C drugs. It's the fourth straight agreement where a payer or benefits manager has chosen Gilead over competitor AbbVie.
The deal was announced Friday and is effective immediately. Aetna chose Gilead's drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, “based on their efficiency and cost compared to other current hepatitis C treatments,” Aetna said in a statement. The drugs will still require precertification.
The announcement comes days after Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told investors at this week's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that his company had not yet decided to go with either Gilead or AbbVie.
Aetna is now the fourth company to sign and publicly announce an exclusivity deal with Gilead. Anthem was the first publicly traded insurer to do so. Humana acknowledged at the J.P. Morgan meeting that it too has a discount-pricing agreement with Gilead. Pharmacy benefits manager CVS Health struck its deal earlier this month.
None of the companies has provided details on the discounts. Sovaldi and Harvoni cost $84,000 and $94,500, respectively, for the usual 12 weeks of treatment. In an e-mailed statement, an Aetna spokeswoman said it could not disclose the price it obtained because of a confidentiality agreement, but added “that the pricing that we have achieved with this agreement is competitive with other recently announced agreements for this class of therapies.”
Express Scripts started the discount pricing war in December when it chose AbbVie's Viekira Pak for its hepatitis C members. The Food and Drug Administration approved Viekira Pak, which costs more than $83,000, that same month.
However, no other major insurer or pharmacy benefits manager has publicly agreed to an exclusive deal with AbbVie since Express Scripts. Officials from AbbVie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite the bargaining, not all companies expect to sign these agreements with Gilead or AbbVie. Pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics said earlier this week that both companies' hepatitis C drugs were on its preferred drug list.
“There has been a substantial reduction in the net price of both of these drugs just in the past few weeks, so sometimes it pays not to go first,” Peter Wickersham, senior vice president of Integrated Care and Specialty at Prime Therapeutics, said in a release (PDF). “It was clear that neither Gilead nor AbbVie wanted to be left off our formulary, and the result proved to be significantly better than taking an exclusive position.”
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