Sep 29, 2015

What It's Like When Patients Desperately Need Sovaldi - they suffer, they die

The Atlantic ...Drug makers have long justified their high prices by saying it's the only way they can recoup their investment into research and development. Then again, pharmaceutical companies have some of the largest profit margins in the health-care industry.

In an emailed statement, a Gilead spokeswoman responded to questions about Sovaldi's price by saying, "unlike treatment for other chronic diseases, Sovaldi offers a cure … at a price that significantly reduces Hepatitis C treatment costs and delivers significant savings to the healthcare system over the long-term."

Together, Sovaldi and Harvoni generated $12.4 billion in sales for Gilead last year. The company's CEO, John C. Martin, is a billionaire. Gilead's revenues doubled last year, and as the New York Times wrote, the company "now is faced with figuring out what to do with all the cash it is generating."

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Last year, New Mexico's Human Services Department issued a rule that required patients to show that they have Stage 3 or Stage 4 liver fibrosis before Medicaid will cover them for drugs like Sovaldi.

In Stage 4, the liver is "hard as a rock," Sanjeev Arora, a University of New Mexico physician, told the Albuquerque Journal. "Treating someone for Hepatitis C after they have developed cirrhosis is a little bit like closing the barn door after the horse has left." While they wait to develop cirrhosis, Hep C patients face a higher risk of developing depression, nerve pain, and lymphoma.

When low-income Hep C patients come to see Bush, she'll assure them that she wants to see them cured. "I will at all costs try to get you the medication," she says.