Hepatitis-Curing Pill Costs 250 Times More in US Than India

And that's limiting access to Americans with the disease
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2016 2:23 PM CST
Hepatitis-Curing Pill Costs 250 Times More in Us Than India
Sofosbuvir, which cures Hepatitis C, is selling for a little more than $4 per pill in India. In the US, a single pill will run you $1,000.   (AP Photo/Gilead Sciences)

It's starting to seem like America is an expensive place to get a disease. Bloomberg reports sofosbuvir—a Hepatitis C "miracle cure"—that retails for $1,000 per pill in the US is currently going for $4.29 in India, and that price is continuing to drop. Like other pharmaceutical companies, Gilead Sciences is making generic versions of its drug available in developing countries. More than a dozen generic versions of sofosbuvir, which can get rid of Hepatitis C in just three months, are currently being sold by multiple companies in India. And those companies are constantly lowering prices to gain a bigger market share. “If one agrees to it, the others will also have to," an Indian gastroenterologist tells Bloomberg. "It’s a race where one cannot say no—because then they’re going to lose the business."

These cheap, generic versions of sofosbuvir are great for India, where at least 12 million people—and up to 50% of the population in some areas—have Hepatitis C, Bloomberg reports. But in the US, the steep price—nearly $95,000 for a 12-week course—is limiting access, according to aidsmap.com. A recent study found almost 25% of people with chronic Hepatitis C have their initial requests for sofosbuvir denied by insurance companies. That number lowers to less than 10% after appeals—but appeals take time away from treatment. Insurance companies often require patients to have advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis before they agree to take on the cost of sofosbuvir. Bloomberg reports Medicaid is also limiting access to sofosbuvir. Gilead, which has faced criticism over high prices from the US Senate, stands behind its pricing. (Read more pharmaceutical companies stories.)

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