Lawmakers pressure Gilead on Quad price ahead of approval

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Gilead Sciences ($GILD) has not yet gotten approval for its HIV combo drug Quad, but is already hearing complaints about how much it costs--more than a dozen from members of Congress, no less.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Gilead CEO John Martin, the 13 congressmen say that at a reported cost of $34,000 a year per patient, Quad's price could overwhelm state programs set up to help HIV patients without insurance cover the cost of drugs.

The letter says that while Gilead has a price freeze on its HIV drugs for state programs through next year, commercial price hikes still end up affecting state funds needed for co-pays of patients who can't afford them. It chastises Gilead for this year already raising the prices in the commercial market 7.9%, 7.3% and 6.6% on AIDS drugs Truvada, Complera and Atripla respectively. It points out that that is more than the rate of inflation and has forced state programs that cannot afford the price hikes to lengthen waiting lists.

The California company could not be reached for comment.

The FDA is expected to decide Aug. 27 on whether to approve the four-in-one pill for HIV. The FDA's Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee in May voted 13-1 to recommend approval, saying that Quad is a safe and effective drug for HIV patients who haven't received prior treatment for the immune system-attacking disease. Gilead's future success in the HIV market relies heavily on the approval of Quad, which could provide the company with a $1 billion-plus seller after patents on its top-selling drug Atripla expire.

The 13 say HIV organizations' analyses estimate that Gilead will price Quad between $27,000 and $34,000, and that even at the low end of that range, it would result in fewer patients in line for treatment and longer waiting lists since states don't have more money to spend. Without saying what would be an acceptable price for the four-in-one drug, the 13 ask Martin to consider the impact pricing will have on patients. They then wrap up by lauding the company for its commitment to developing AIDS and HIV medications. 

- here's the letter (PDF)

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