Payer pushback aside, Sovaldi, and so Gilead, has another huge quarter

Gilead CEO John Martin

Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) juggernaut, Sovaldi, keeps on rolling along despite the pushback from payers, politicians and health officials over the high price of the hepatitis C cure. It racked up another $3.5 billion sales in the second quarter, on top of the nearly $2.3 billion in the first, a sum that made it the fastest drug launch ever.

"Since December's launch, Sovaldi has been prescribed for more than 80,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe, underscoring the medical community's recognition of the benefits of this product," Gilead CEO John Martin said in a statement. "We look forward to making Sovaldi available in additional countries." 

Those numbers propelled Gilead to $6.53 billion in quarterly revenue, well more than double the $2.77 billion in the second quarter of 2013. Gilead's HIV drug Stribild turned in $270 million in Q2 sales, up 153%. It was a huge day, all round, for the Foster City, CA, company, which was also awarded with an FDA approval for its PI3k inhibitor idelalisib for three types of B-cell blood cancers. To be marketed under the name Zydelig, EvaluatePharma has said it should reach $1.2 billion in sales by 2020.

Of course, that is nothing compared to Sovaldi, which is knocking out those kinds of numbers in weeks. But resistance is mounting to its $84,000 price for a 12-week course of treatment, putting that momentum in question. Gilead is defending the price of the drug as a lifetime treatment that can allow patients, and so payers, to avoid the costs of dealing with liver failure, liver cancer, liver transplants and other expensive consequences of hep C infection.

But having to pay for it for millions of patients at the same time has states and private insurers scrambling, and some are telling doctors they won't pay. Texas, for example, won't pay for Sovaldi or Olysio, a companion drug from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ).

- here's the announcement

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