Gilead Sciences, Inc. Sued Over Outrageous Hepatitis C Drug Prices

Published: Dec 15, 2014

Gilead Sciences, Inc. Sued Over Outrageous Hepatitis C Drug Prices
December 11, 2014
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

The battle over the controversially high price of an extremely effective treatment for hepatitis C added a new chapter late Wednesday, when the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said it had filed a class action lawsuit accusing Gilead Sciences of charging "exorbitant" prices for the drug, Sovaldi.

Sovaldi and another Gilead drug, Harvoni, sometimes have multiple stages of treatment, and cost $94,500 and $84,000 per course respectively—or around $1,000 per pill. Sovaldi alone made $8.5 billion for Gilead in the first three quarters of 2014, or almost 50 percent of its total sales for that same period.

The case, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, v. Gilead Sciences Inc., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 2:14-cv-06978, was filed in Philadelphia federal court.

Many public health programs like Medicaid and state prison systems currently foot the bill for the $94,500 price tag of Sovaldi, which has a cure rate of around 90 percent. Because the poor and incarcerated are more likely to suffer from the debilitating liver disease, that high cost can affect them disproportionately.

SEPTA said Wednesday in its suit that Gilead is thinking only of profit when it charges "exorbitant" prices the blockbuster drug. It also argues that the company is violating anti-trust laws and the terms of its patent.

"Limited rights as a patent holder do not translate into a license to price gouge consumers," the lawsuit said. SEPTA said it seeking to add anyone in the U.S. who has either already paid for Sovaldi or had to delay treatment because they cannot afford the drug.

The transportation authority, which said it has paid more than $2.4 million for Sovaldi for its employees, is seeking to represent a class of everyone in the United States who has paid for Sovaldi or has not been able to afford needed Sovaldi treatment.

Newsworks reported late Wednesday that Nick Chimicles, the lawyer representing SEPTA in the suit, estimates that Sovaldi has already cost the fund at least $2.4 million, money that the agency is "hemorrhaging" despite its efforts that "the drug reaches the people it needs to reach."

"This is not a reasonable profit, this is price gauging and this is something that has got to stop," he said.

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