High Price Of Specialty Drugs Prompts Backlash

An unusual coalition of patient advocates and health plans, groups often at odds, are calling for greater transparency in drug pricing. They want to know why the drugs cost so much in the United States when in other parts of the world -- including Europe, Canada and Egypt -- Sovaldi and Harvoni are sold for a fraction of the price.

"We feel like there hasn't been a lot of explanation why drugs are priced at this rate," said Nicole Kasabian Evans, vice president for communications at the California Association of Health Plans. "There are about 12 blockbuster drugs set to launch this year, and we think it's important to peel back the onion and get a better understanding of why drugs are priced this way."

Medicines to treat rare conditions, called "orphan drugs," for years have been priced high to recoup the expense of developing a drug for a relatively small number of patients. But until Sovaldi, it was unheard of for a drug aimed at a commonplace disease to cost so much, critics said.

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