Gilead wins FDA approval for cheaper hepatitis C cure

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The company that created Sovaldi, the landmark drug to cure hepatitis C, has won approval for a new, slightly cheaper treatment that will be even more effective against the disease.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the newest drug from Gilead Sciences called Epclusa, which marks the first combination therapy to treat all six forms of the liver disease hepatitis C.

{mosads}The new, potential blockbuster drug will be priced lower than the $1,000-per-pill cost of Sovaldi, which helped spur a national uproar over drug pricing last year. Gilead, a California-based company, argued that it marked down the cost of its drug for many health plans.

Epclusa will cost $74,760 for a course of treatment before discounts, according to a Gilead spokeswoman. That compares to $84,000 for a full course of Sovaldi.

The cost of Sovaldi has threatened to drain state and local budgets because of its widespread use by Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare alone spent $4.5 billion in 2015 on the drug, according to ProPublica.

Epclusa had been considered under the FDA’s priority review program, which helps speed up the drug-approval process for drugs to treat serious conditions that “would provide significant improvement in safety or effectiveness.”

Gilead already has two of the best selling drugs to treat hepatitis C, both of which have drawn criticism for high price tags.

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