US hepatitis C patients travel to India for cheaper Sovaldi versions

Patients in the US and Europe have struggled to get access to the drug after insurers and governments limited its use to the sickest patients to control costs 


New York/Mumbai: This is how far one Express Scripts Holding Co. executive was willing to go to secure inexpensive versions of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, unavailable to US consumers under federal drug import and patent laws.
 
His plan: Dock a cruise ship flying an Indian flag off the coast of Miami. Stock the ship with versions of Sovaldi sold in India for $83,000 less than the US retail price for 12 weeks of treatment. Ferry US patients to the boat and send them home with the potentially life-saving medicines at a huge discount.
 
The only wrinkle in his plan wasn’t the absurdity of a pharmacy benefit manager manning and operating a cruise ship full of drugs from India. The problem, after doing some quick research into the idea, was that it would probably violate US drug re-importation laws that limit the value of drugs brought into the country to $1,500—the price of one and a half Sovaldi tablets in the US, said Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, who came up with the idea.
 
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