Highway Bill Gives $500 Million to Veterans’ Hepatitis Drugs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was authorized to spend as much as $500 million for hepatitis C treatments through Oct. 1 as part of the emergency highway funding bill signed into law on Friday.

The spending could provide a short-term sales boost for Gilead Sciences Inc., which makes the hepatitis C treatments Harvoni and Sovaldi, and for AbbVie Inc., which makes a similar drug, Viekira Pak. Gilead sold $4.9 billion of its hepatitis C pills in the second quarter, while AbbVie sold $385 million of its treatment in the same period.

While the drugs provide a cure for the disease, which can cause liver damage to the point of needing a transplant, their prices have attracted a firestorm of criticism from politicians and insurers. List prices for the treatments are more than $83,000 for a 12-week course.

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