[Ip-health] AbbVie's New Hepatitis C Treatment Won't Cure Patient Access Issue

Priti Krishtel priti at i-mak.org
Thu Aug 10 17:31:15 PDT 2017


*AbbVie's New Hepatitis C Treatment Won't Cure Patient Access Issue*

Priti Krishtel

*Publish Date:* Thursday, August 10, 2017

Last week, the FDA approved AbbVie’s Mavyret—a new hepatitis C virus (HCV)
drug that treats all genotypes of the disease and cures more than 90% of
patients within just 8 weeks of treatment. This has been reported as a
threat to Gilead Sciences’ dominant position in the market, sparking rumors
of a potential price war that could lower prices on the infamously
expensive treatments.

There is reason to be tentatively optimistic. The initial published price
on Mavryet was lower than expected at $13,200 per month—or $26,400 for a
full course of treatment—appearing on the surface to be a significant
discount from the $94,500 per-treatment course costs of Harvoni, Gilead’s
market-leading treatment.

And while the published price is a step in the right direction to getting
more people the treatment they need, it isn’t the whole story. The set
Mavryet price is reflective of the current market conditions. With
behind-the-scenes payer negotiations, the announced price on Mavyret is
only an approximately 15% discount to the current net price paid for
Gilead’s products.

While AbbVie’s pricing is now the lowest for a curative HCV drug, it is not
a radical undercutting of Gilead prices. Millions of Americans with HCV—and
tens of millions globally—are already blocked from getting treatment at the
current exorbitant prices set by the pharmaceutical industry and the
subsequent rationing of treatment approval by payers.

The United States is currently facing an HCV epidemic. There are an
estimated 3.6 million Americans with HCV—and that number is expected to
rise in the coming years. There is a cure, but every day 48 people in the
United States die from HCV, the deadliest infectious disease in America.
That’s because 2 out of every 3 Americans who have been diagnosed with HCV
do not receive treatment, largely due to the high costs. States such as
Louisiana and Pennsylvania are forced to ration treatment to the sickest of
patients, and many insurers refuse to cover it because of the high price.

A week out from the *FDA’s approval
it is not clear what the introduction of Mavyret will do to change this
situation. What is clear, however, is that people should not die of an
entirely treatable illness. One of the root causes of the unaffordability
crisis is the fact that pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead over-patent
drugs, including extending its market monopoly on Sovaldi for at least the
next 2 decades.

Gilead’s initial price on Sovaldi has skewed what the market considered a
fair price for HCV treatment. I doubt we would see this level of praise for
AbbVie now if Gilead hadn’t launched this lifesaving medicine at $84,000
for a single course of treatment.

Until we address the core of the drug pricing problem—unjustified
patents—pharmaceutical companies will be able to abuse the system to obtain
monopolies on the market and charge astronomical prices that prevent people
from getting access to disease-curing medicines.

*About the Author*
*Priti Krishtel is co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for
Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), a US-based nonprofit group of
scientists and lawyers working globally to get people lifesaving medicine.
Prior to founding I-MAK, Krishtel obtained her law degree from New York
University School of Law worked as a health attorney in the United States,
Switzerland and India.*

More information about the Ip-health mailing list