It IS The Money, Stupid (Gilead– Solvaldi, Harvoni and Hepatitis C)

Make no mistake for the pharmaceutical industry, it’s the money that counts.   Gilead is now marketing two drugs for hepatitis C costing in the range of $80-100,000 for the pills alone.  That is over $1000/pill.

In the 90’s the drug companies discovered that people with serious life-threatening illness would pay anything for a “treatment” even if it was minimally effective.  They would pay more if the drug actually worked.

For years Pharma’s problem was that people with cancers were not so numerous as those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure  or even diabetes.  As such it was less rewarding to develop new drugs for these patients.  That limitation however became less of a problem  as the price of the drug increased to tens of thousands of dollars/year for the drug alone–and insurers paid.

Now Gilead appears to have hit the trifecta.  First they have a drug that appears to work in a majority of those afflicted.  Second they are charging $90,000/head for the treatment, and third there are millions of people afflicted.  What could be better?

Medicynical note:  The cost of this drug puts to rest once and for all the notion that drug companies have any interest in the well-being of their patients.  It IS the money.  There is little doubt that charging half or a quarter of their asking price would reward the company handsomely for their investment in this drug and provide stockholders a generous return.  BUT as is the case in our drug industry, why charge less when you can get away with more.  After all the disease is often fatal, insurers will pay and patients are desperate.  It’s perfect.

And the price is only about twice the median income (including physicians fees and lab expenses for a year) of people in the U.S.  Affordable, no.  But who really cares?


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