CVS says $1,000 pill is worth it


CVS Caremark is siding with the pharmaceutical industry over the rising costs of specialty drugs.

In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS, and William Shrank, the company’s chief scientific officer, defended Gilead’s hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which costs $1,000 a pill.

Brennan and Shrank say the drugs value should include its effectiveness compared to other treatments, how it improves quality of life for patients and how it can reduce the overall cost of healthcare.

“While a daily oral medication that costs $1,000 per pill gains attention, the more important issue is the number of people eligible for treatment,” they said.

They point out previous hepatitis C treatments had terrible side effects and were less effective, leading doctors to hold back from prescribing them.

They also note that while Sovaldi has a monopoly on the market right now, a half dozen new hepatitis C drugs are excepted to be available in the next 4 years and will likely drive down the cost of the drug as competition increases.

One regiment of the drug can cost well over $84,000 and 3.2 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have hepatitis C.

Sovaldi has come under fire from lawmakers, insurers and pharmacy benefit management companies for threatening to bankrupt the healthcare system. A recent poll also found 4-in-5 people say the price of the drug is unjustified.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has argued Gilead needs to be able to recoup research and development dollars, and the drug saves money by reducing liver transplant costs for some patients.