Harvard Pilgrim negotiates discount on pricey hepatitis drug

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has become the first regional health insurer to negotiate a discount on a costly new hepatitis C drug regimen that cures more than 90 percent of people with the virus but inflicts steep financial losses on payers.

Under a one-year contract with Gilead Sciences Inc., maker of the two-drug Harvoni treatment for the liver-ravaging disease, Wellesley-based Harvard Pilgrim expects to save about $10 million on reimbursements to doctors who treat hepatitis C patients. The insurer didn’t disclose how much it will pay for the drug after a rebate from Gilead.

Harvard Pilgrim followed the lead of national pharmacy benefit managers such as CVS/Caremark and Express Scripts, which buy prescription drugs in bulk. Taking advantage of a rival hepatitis C drug combination from AbbVie Inc., those companies recently bargained with both drug makers to secure rebates.

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