Mixed Signals

Amid healthy sales and bountiful approvals, a pricing conundrum impedes patient access to medicines in 2014

Within a week of publication of C&EN’s 2013 Pharmaceutical Year in Review, a new drug called Sovaldi was introduced. Like others before, it came with a backstory and kicked off a new adventure for the firm that developed it and the patients, physicians, and payers that populate the market. In the case of Sovaldi, a highly effective treatment for hepatitis C, the narrative illuminates the key issues and dilemmas characterizing the drug industry in 2014.

The active ingredient in Sovaldi, sofosbuvir, was discovered by Pharmasset, a Princeton, N.J.-based biotech firm with fewer than 100 employees. Seeing potential, Gilead Sciences acquired Pharmasset in 2011 for a surprising $11 billion. The bet, although big, has already paid off: Sovaldi sales were $8.5 billion in the first nine months of this year.

For Gilead, a fast-growing drug company with a portfolio of successful therapies in areas such as HIV/AIDS and oncology, Sovaldi exemplified the kind of product most highly prized in drug discovery and development: one that has a novel and positive impact on an intractable disease.

Read more of this interesting review of the year in pharmaceuticals here....

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