Amidst allegations of price gouging, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has promised to take legal action against Gilead if it doesn't cut the price of its antiviral hepatitis C and HIV meds Sovaldi and Harvoni.
In a recent article on Fierce Pharma, Healey told Gilead CEO John Martin that Sovaldi's list price of $84,000 for a 12-week course ($1,000 per day), and Harvoni's $94,500 price tag "may constitute unfair trade practice" that violates state law.
Because Medicaid patients and prisoners comprise a large percent of the hep C population, this price gouging affects local governments to the tune of millions. Some states, like Texas, have refused to pay for the drugs altogether.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont called on the FDA to break the California-based company's patent and allow generic hep C drugs. But Healey is the first state attorney general to suggest legal action against Gilead, contending that their pricing is keeping the drugs out of the hands of people who need it most.
The drugs' high cost essentially allows hep C "to continue spreading through vulnerable populations, as opposed to eradicating the disease altogether," Healey wrote. And that, in turn, "results in massive public harm."
Gilead maintains that its drugs are priced fairly, because they save the healthcare system much more money in the long run, by preventing liver transplants and cancer.
According to a Boston Globe article, Gilead spokeswoman Amy Flood said that it received Healey's letter and requested a meeting to discuss the issues.
"We look forward to working with [Healey's] office to address questions and concerns and ensure a mutual understanding of the work we are doing to deliver a cure for hepatitis C to as many patients as possible in Massachusetts and around the world," she said in a statement.
But Healey said that as infections for hep C have increased due to the rising national heroin epidemic, keeping the necessary medications to treat it out of people's hands has a huge impact on public health.
"This drug is priced in a way that puts it out of reach of people who need it," Healey said after addressing a breakfast meeting of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which represents the state's drug makers. "Look, companies are entitled to recover for their costs and are entitled to reap profits. But we need to make sure these drugs are available to people."