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Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi°): dangerous pricing

Clinical evaluation data that are less substantial than had previously been announced, and a wildly excessive turn in the setting of drug prices.

The price being charged by the pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences for its drug Sovaldi° (sofosbuvir), an antiviral drug against hepatitis C virus, has been causing indignation in many countries, including France. In the US for example, drug spending for 12 weeks of sofosbuvir has been set at 80 000 dollars per patient (around 62 000 euros) (1). Our investigation as of 16 July 2014 indicated that the price in France for 28 capsules of sofosbuvir was around 19 000 euros, under the temporary authorisation for use (“autorisation temporaire d’utilisation” or ATU), which comes out to 57 000 euros for 12 weeks of treatment.

What are the grounds for this extreme pricing? The cost of research? The production cost? Does this drug represent a sufficient therapeutic advance to justify such a high price tag? The price that is being demanded of patients, and of society via publicly funded health insurance systems, turns out to be mainly the result of speculation, and has little to do with either research or health (1).

According to one of the founders of Pharmasset, the firm that developed sofosbuvir, the company’s name was chosen to showcase its goal of creating financial value (hence “asset”) out of drugs (hence “pharma”) (2). And it is precisely this financial equation that is now weighing heavily on public health insurance systems.

In an upcoming issue the non-profit French medical journal Prescrire will publish its review of the harm-benefit balances of hepatitis C treatments, as well as its review of the evaluation data for sofosbuvir, which are weaker than had been anticipated. We will supply additional details on what factors led up to this dangerous inflation in the pricing of these treatments.

©Prescrire 1 September 2014

Source: "Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi°) : un prix dangereux" Rev Prescrire 2014; 34 (371): 658.

References :
1- Langreth R “Gilead CEO becomes billionaire on $84,000 hepatitis drug” 3 March 2014. www.bloomberg.com accessed 24 June 2014: 3 pages.
2- Berkrot B “Gilead could have had Pharmasset cheap: founder” 22 November 2011. www.reuters.com accessed 9 July 2014: 2 pages.