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Costly Pills Put Financial Burden on Health Systems

There could be a quick uptake of Sovaldi in the United States, according to a December report from Phil Nadeau, a biotechnology analyst with Cowen and Company. He said that as many as 50,000 people could be treated in the United States with Sovaldi in 2014 alone, helping drive global sales of the drug to $3 billion for the year.

The haggling currently allowed for drugs in the United States in private plans and some Medicaid plans could lower the price for treatment with Sovaldi to about $70,000 a patient for a 12-week course.

Medicaid programs may also be another major market for Sovaldi and the newer hepatitis drugs.

A study presented in May at one of the world’s largest gatherings of liver specialists, known as Digestive Disease Week, found the rate of hepatitis C infection was more than twice as high among people on Medicaid compared with those with private insurance, with 663 cases for every 100,000 people on the state-federal health program and 302 for every 100,00 in the other group. People in the Medicaid group also were less likely to have had treatment for hepatitis than those with private health insurance, 20 percent versus 27 percent.

“The development of interferon-free regimens may increase eligibility for treatment,” concluded the paper, whose lead writer was an employee of the drugmaker AbbVie, which is developing a competitor pill to Sovaldi.

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