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Aetna picks Gilead’s hepatitis C drugs

Health insurance firm favours Sovaldi and Harvoni after negotiating discount
Gilead Harvoni hepatitis C

Gilead Sciences won a victory in the increasingly competitive hepatitis C market with the announcement from US health insurance Aetna that it will favour its two new treatments for the virus.

Aetna said last week that Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir) will be the “preferred therapies” for its 11 million customers having negotiated a discount for the drugs.

This will cut the list prices of the drugs, which stand at $94,000 for a full course of treatment with Harvoni and $84,000 for Sovaldi, although specific details of the discount were not provided.

The decision is good news for Gilead, which has already achieved huge success following the launches of the drugs, with Sovaldi's sales for the first nine months of 2014 reaching $8.5bn.

However, Gilead is set to face stiffer competition in 2015 with the launch of AbbVie's Viekira Pak, which like Sovaldi and Harvoni offers a major advancement in hepatitis C treatment by being available as an all-oral regimen that is much more convenient and effective than previous therapies.

Gilead's position at the top has already been shaken by the decision at the end of last year by pharmacy benefits management organisation Express Scripts to favour AbbVie's regimen, which has a list price of $83,319 and is therefore cheaper than Gilead's offerings.

Despite the major advancements in treatment offered by this new generation of hepatitis therapy their high cost has drawn criticism from US politicians, insurers and patients.

France has negotiated the lowest price for Sovaldi in Europe, with a 12-week course costing around $51,000, while in the UK the NHS has had to delay the availability of the drug to ensure it has the right processes in place to fund treatment.

Article by
Thomas Meek

19th January 2015

From: Sales, Healthcare

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