France health minister says EU will fight price of Gilead's Sovaldi

Resistance to the price that Gilead Sciences ($GILD) has put on Sovaldi, a drug that will cure millions of hepatitis C, is reaching a fever pitch. Now 14 European countries are banding together to press Gilead for deep discounts, saying that without them they will have to ration care.

"If we accept such a high price, firstly we won't be able to treat everyone and we will also be creating a risk for our social security system, which means for other patients," News Daily reports French Health Minister Marisol Touraine telling BFMTV.

Touraine said she has commitments from 13 other countries to share information on price as they haggle with Gilead. "For the first time, 14 European countries have made a commitment together," she said on TV. "We will therefore negotiate country by country as that's how it's done, but we will exchange information and discuss things between European countries."

The U.K. drug price evaluator NICE has already indicated a reluctance to pay the asking price for Sovaldi, even at $57,000 for a 12-week course, compared to $84,000 in the U.S. Germany has resisted the $66,000 price being offered there.

U.S. payers are shelling it out, despite some people screaming loudly about the injustice of it. Express Scripts has publicly said it is urging payers to refuse to pay for the drug as soon as another similar drug hits the market. Express Scripts CMO Steven Miller has said at the current price, it would cost the U.S. $300 billion to treat the patients who currently have hepatitis C in the country.

But Gilead's first-quarter results indicate pay they are. Sovaldi generated $2.274 billion in revenue in its first full quarter on the market, making it the biggest launch and setting it up to surpass peak sales of Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug, perhaps in its first year on the market. The company has assured payers that the money they will save on liver transplants and other treatments, will make the drug a bargain in the long run. 

Those kinds of assurances are not quelling demands that Gilead cut the price. According to News Daily, Medecins du Monde estiamates if France paid for just over half of those with hepatitis C in that country, 230,000 sufferers, the cost would equal the current annual budget of the entire hospital network in Paris. Those kinds of estimates have roused dozens of medical associations to urge a price cut.  

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