U.S. Senators Ask Gilead to Explain $84,000 Hep C Drug Price

Gilead Sciences Inc. has been asked by two U.S. senators to explain how it priced its $84,000 hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi, adding pressure on the drugmaker to explain the cost of the breakthrough treatment.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon asked Gilead Chief Executive Officer John Martin to give details on the drug $1,000-a-pill price within 60 days. Wyden leads the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the U.S. health programs Medicare and Medicaid.

“It is unclear how Gilead set the price for Sovaldi,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter sent today. “That price appears to be higher than expected given the costs of development and production and the steep discounts offered in other countries.”

Wyden and Grassley asked Foster City, California-based Gilead to respond with detailed information, including any e-mails, transcripts, and spreadsheets explaining how they decided on Sovaldi’s price.

Gilead will cooperate with the senators’ request, spokeswoman Amy Flood said in an e-mail. She declined to comment on the letter or Sovaldi’s pricing for Medicare and Medicaid, which insure the elderly, disabled and poor.

Sovaldi was approved last year as a breakthrough treatment for the viral liver infection, which can eventually lead to liver failure and the need for a transplant. The medicine offers higher cure rates and fewer side effects than older treatments, and its high cost has attracted scrutiny and resistance from insurers and public health advocates.

U.S. House Democrats asked Gilead in March to brief Congress on Sovaldi pricing. At the time, the drugmaker said it would meet with lawmakers.

Gilead shares slipped less than 1 percent to close at $88.73 in New York.

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