In the past five years, newer treatments have become available that have changed how hepatitis C is treated. These newer medications – direct-acting antivirals – target the hepatitis C virus directly and have fewer side effects than previous treatments. Direct-acting antivirals have greatly improved the cure rates of this serious and life-threatening infection. However, for many, the treatments are too costly. Too many people cannot get the treatment they need because of the expense.
Gilead announces plans for generic versions
Gilead, a pharmaceutical company that makes hepatitis C medications Epclusa® (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir) and Harvoni® (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), has recently announced plans to sell generic versions of their drugs. The generic versions will be significantly cheaper than the original versions. When Harvoni was first available, it cost $94,500, and Epclusa was priced at $74,760. The cheaper, generic versions will be available at $24,000 for a course of treatment.1,2
Cost and coverage of hepatitis C treatment
While $24,000 is still a lot of money, many see this as a step in the right direction. Gilead CEO John Milligan explained in a statement that the new price is similar to what many insurance companies will pay for branded treatments. Hopefully, the new pricing and generic options will provide patients with the treatment they need, with insurance or Medicare covering most of the cost. Milligan expressed the possibility that these new options will be covered by Medicaid plans as well, and his statement said this new option could save Medicare patients up to $2,500 in out-of-pocket costs.1
Generics available early 2019
Many medications are available in a generic form once the patent expires. However, Gilead’s move to create generic versions of Epclusa and Harvoni is coming more than a decade before the patents will expire. The generic versions of these hepatitis C treatments will be marketed by a subsidiary company, Asegua Therapeutics. They estimate that these generic options will be available in January 2019.2,3
A perspective from our CEO: Gilead Subsidiary to Launch Authorized Generics to Treat HCV. Gilead. Available at http://www.gilead.com/news/gilead-subsidiary-to-launch-authorized-generics-to-treat-hcv. Accessed 9/25/18.
Gilead to sell cheaper versions of hepatitis C drugs that sparked pricing debate. Los Angeles Times. Available at http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-gilead-drug-prices-20180924-story.html#. Accessed 9/25/18.
Barber J. Gilead to launch authorised generic versions of hepatitis C drugs Epclusa and Harvoni next year in US. FirstWord Pharma. Available at https://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1592839#axzz5S6zwipdg. Accessed 9/25/18.