FDA Approves Cheaper Hep C Drug
Viekira™, the new hepatitis C treatment created by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, has received FDA approval for general market use for the most prevalent form of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a chronic condition affecting the liver that damages the liver and affects over 3 million Americans, mostly those born between 1945 and 1965. Most individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus are unaware of it.
Viekira’s release comes after other highly effective, albeit expensive, hepatitis C treatments hit the market beginning in Spring of 2013. Prior to Viekira release, industry experts speculated whether AbbVie would offer the highly effective treatment at a more affordable cost to patients. In an interesting and somewhat surprising turn of events, Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in America, opted to cease coverage of Sovaldi (Gilead), currently the most widely prescribed hepatitis C medication, while electing to exclusively cover the Viekira Pak.
This news comes amid great controversy regarding the exorbitant costs of Sovaldi as well as a lawsuit filed by the City of Philadelphia Transit Agency against Gilead for this. Although the retail price of the Viekira Pak is only nominally less than Sovaldi. pricing in at $83,320 and $84,000 respectively for a 12 week course, Express Scripts announced negotiations with AbbVie that provide “significant” discounts for Express Scripts members. Express Scripts manages prescriptions for roughly 90 million Americans, therefore these discounts are expected to extend to millions of individuals suffering from the most common form of hepatitis C -genotype 1.
There are some distinct differences between Viekira and Sovaldi in terms of frequency for which the pills must be administered. Viekira requires a series of 4-6 pills to be taken sometimes more than once per day, whereas Sovaldi is administered as a single pill taken once daily. Initially, skeptics questioned whether the multiple pill requirements would deter some patients from selecting Viekira over Sovaldi. Other industry experts presupposed that a more attractive price tag may propel AbbVie’s hepatitis C product into the pharmaceutical forefront, which has proven true.
Viekira is recommended as a 12-24 week treatment and will be available in 2015. AbbVie offers a co-pay assistance program for the Viekira Pak for commercially insured individuals that may provide the drug for as little as $5.00 monthly. For hepatitis C sufferers faced with economic hardship, Abbvie offers ViekiraPak free of charge. For more information about the patient support services offered by AbbVie, please visit www.viekira.com or call 1-844-2-PROCEED.
Viekira is effective without supplemental use of injected pegylated interferon, which is often not well-tolerated by patients. Studies demonstrate that Viekira cures between 92-100% of hepatitis C cases in clinical trials. in patients with co-morbid HIV infection, cure rates are as high as 90%. One key study found that Viekira is effective for individuals with hepatitis C who have previously received a liver transplantation, and is shown to cure up to 98% after a 24 week regimen.