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Gilead Doubles Share Buyback Plans With $5 Billion Pool

Gilead Sciences Inc., the maker of a hepatitis C treatment projected to be the best-selling drug of all time, said it would double the size of an existing $5 billion share buyback program.

With the new $5 billion pool, the biotechnology drug company has $7.9 billion to repurchase some of its $121.1 billion in outstanding shares. The company’s stock has fallen below its 52-week high of $83.95 after criticism of the $1,000-per-pill price of the hepatitis C treatment, called Sovaldi. The shares closed today at $78.77 in New York.

The $2.9 billion left from the 2011 buyback program will be spent by September, Gilead said in a statement. The Foster City, California-based company, the world’s largest maker of AIDS drugs, then will have three years to use the new $5 billion.

Sovaldi is among a group of new treatments for the viral liver infection that will do away with side-effect heavy injections. It offers higher cure rates and shorter treatment durations than previous therapies at a price tag of $84,000 for a 12-week course.

The medicine generated revenue of $2.27 billion in the first quarter after approval last year, the fastest drug sales introduction in history. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg predict sales of $13.7 billion in 2017, which would make it the biggest drug ever, topping Pfizer Inc.’s best-selling cholesterol pill, Lipitor.

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