UK cost body backs Gilead’s pricey combination hepatitis pill

Gilead Sciences’ expensive two-in-one hepatitis C pill Harvoni has been endorsed for use on the state health service in Britain, where it costs significantly less than in the United States.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said on Tuesday it had issued draft guidance recommending the medicine as a treatment option for some adults with certain strains of chronic hepatitis C, known as genotype 1 or 4.
Gilead’s new hepatitis drugs are revolutionizing the treatment of the liver-destroying disease by offering an effective cure, but their high price has sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Britain, where NICE’s control over which drugs are used on the National Health Service exerts downward pressure on prices, Harvoni is priced at 38,979.99 pounds ($58,400) for a 12-week treatment course – a third less than in the United States.
Harvoni combines Gilead’s drug Sovaldi, which was approved by NICE last year, with another of its anti-viral medicines into a daily pill.
Gilead argues that high prices are justified by the near guarantee of a cure and the ability to help patients avoid far more expensive hospital treatment, including potential liver transplants.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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