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Sovaldi hepatitis C drug rakes in $5.8 billion for Gilead

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Gilead Sciences announced that Sovaldi, its new hepatitis C medication reached $3.5 billion in sales in the second quarter, suggesting that the uproar over the price had not curbed early use.

The figure represents the results of Gilead's operations that ended on June 30, 2014. The company's total revenue increased from $2.77 billion for last year's second quarter to $6.53 billion for this year's second quarter.

Sovaldi must be taken with ribavirin and it accounted for over half of Gilead's $6.4 billion in total sales for the second quarter. Profit exceeded expectations when it came in at $2.20 a share. The drug is hailed as the most successful medication launch ever when it sold $2.3 billion for the first quarter. Sovaldi can treat over 90 percent of patients with hepatitis C that afflicts three million Americans today. The disease can result to death when left unchecked. Screening is becoming increasingly common and more Americans are expected to find out they have Hepatitis C.

In July, two United States senators asked the company to present documents that explain the rationale for Sovaldi's price, concerned about the increased costs of government health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles presented a report that outlined policy options to reduce Medicare drug costs. He expressed his worry that Sovaldi and other novelty medications will not be affordable to many patients. One of the largest U.S. health insurers called on the company to lower the price of Sovaldi.

"While it was a blockbuster quarter for Gilead, people who can't access the drug because of its price didn't fare nearly as well," Brendan Buck, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement.

Gilead said that it will produce the requested documents. The company argued that Sovaldi's cost is comparable to other traditional medicines which require a longer treatment period with terrible side effects and lower cure rates.

Gilead has another new medication called Zydelig and it may further boost the company's sales performance. Zydelig is for people who have their chronic lymphocytic leukemia back as well as small lymphocytic lymphoma and follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Zydelig costs $7,200 per month when taken twice every day. These cancers afflict over 200,000 Americans.

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