American biotech company Gilead has been getting plenty of attention lately because of its breakthrough drug Sovaldi. The new drug offers a more effective option for treating hepatitis C, a viral disease characterized by the inflammation of the liver and is responsible for more deaths in the U.S than the dreaded acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Sovaldi, which got its approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as treatment for chronic hepatitis C in December, provides a more feasible option for curing hepatitis C. The drug is more effective and causes fewer side effects.
Other treatments can only cure about half of hepatitis C patients but trial participants who received Sovaldi-based therapy achieved success rates of up to 90 percent. Sovaldi also cures patients much faster with treatment period lasting only 12-24 weeks as compared to other treatments that take up to a year.
Sovaldi may be the perfect drug for hepatitis C but its price tag of $84,000 stands in the way of many patients who find the cost of the drug too prohibitive. Concerns over the price of the drug have not gone unnoticed by legislators. On Thursday, several members of the Congress have sent a letter to Gilead regarding the price of its wonder drug.
House Energy and Commerce Committee members Rep. Henry Waxman of Southern California, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado wanted to know why Sovaldi is so expensive and whether or not Gilead is doing anything so poor patients get access to the drug.
"The costs are likely too high for many patients, both those with public insurance and private insurance," the letter stated. "The extraordinarily high cost of your drug raises additional concerns because of the role of the federal government in speeding up its approval."
The letter, which was addressed to Gilead CEO John Martin, asked that the company provide a briefing not later than April 3. Gilead, on the other hand, said that it looks forward to meeting members of the Congress to discuss concerns about the drug.