The FDA only approved Sovaldi in December, but the hepatitis C treatment is already setting records, with as much as $10 billion in sales expected in the first year alone. And why not? It has few side effects, cures 90% of patients, and, oh yeah, costs $1,000 a day. That price tag is causing turmoil throughout the health care system, CBS reports. Doctors can't resist prescribing it, but several insurers might see a more than 10% drop in earnings because of it, one analyst tells the Wall Street Journal. There are an estimated 3.2 million hepatitis C sufferers in the US, and if all those eligible for Sovaldi took it, the price could be as much as $27 billion, one investment bank calculated, according to Forbes.
A lot of that burden would fall on taxpayers, because hepatitis C patients are often veterans, prisoners, uninsured, or on Medicaid. Several Democratic Congressmen recently sent a letter demanding that Sovaldi's maker, Gilead, explain the price tag—especially given that it costs 99% less in hepatitis-ridden Egypt; Congress has no power to alter the price, however. Gilead says its prices ($84,000 for a full course of treatment in the US) key off a country's per-capita income, and argues that it's still a good deal long-term, because it cures patients in 12 weeks. UPI points out that some hepatitis C sufferers ultimately require a liver transplant, which costs upward of $175,000.