The Pandemic We Are Ignoring

A possible cure for hep-C comes at a great cost to the sick.

Drugs that cure patients can kill profits. So Gilead Sciences Inc. faced a fiscal challenge with its new drug, Sovaldi, which reportedly cures up to 90 percent of people with hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lurk undiagnosed and transmissible for decades until it causes liver diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer.

Unlike take-forever meds like those for high cholesterol, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) “represents a finite cure, an important point to consider when comparing the price of a pill or bottle to the lifetime costs of treating a chronic disease,” Gilead spokesperson Cara Miller said.

Considering that point, Gilead set the price at an astounding $1,000 for each daily pill—a total of $84,000 for the minimum 12-week course. That sum would buy a Maserati SQ4 (with $10K in change) or a double-wide mobile home, or feed a thrifty family of four for 11 years. Supplementary drugs can boost the 12-week price to near $100,000. And, depending on the hep-C genotype, some patients—possibly 12 percent in the U.S. and the majority in some heavily infected, poorer countries—need 24 or 48 weeks of daily treatment.

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