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The FDA just approved a new hepatitis C drug that works on all kinds of patients.
The drug, Epclusa, is a combination of sofosbuvir (which was originally approved back in 2013) and velpatasvir (a new drug), both made by Gilead Sciences. Gilead was up 4% on Tuesday morning following the news.
Hepatitis C is a chronic, blood-borne infection that can lead to cirrhosis (chronic liver damage) and liver cancer. It affects between 130 and 150 million people worldwide. There are six main genotypes, or strains, of the disease, which determine how to treat the disease. What’s notable about Epclusa is that it’s able to treat any kind of hepatitis C genotype, all in one pill that’s taken once a day for 12 weeks, according to the FDA.
Of those on the trials who had mild or no cirrohsis, 95-99 percent had no virus detected in their blood at the end of 12 weeks, suggesting that they had been cured. For those with more severe liver damage, that number was still up to 94% when Epclusa was combined with another drug called ribavirin.
The costly world of hepatitis C drugs
This is the third sofosbuvir-based medicine that Gilead’s had approved. When it was originally approved, sofosbuvir made headlines because of its costly $1,000-per-pill list price. It became the subject of a Senate investigation that concluded that Gilead put profits ahead of patients when setting the price.
Gilead’s list a price for a course of Epclusa is $74,760, according to a Gilead spokeswoman. That’s almost $10,000 lower than the existing sofosbuvir-based treatments, Sovaldi and Harvoni, which cost $84,000 and $94,500 for a course of treatment, respectively. That added up to $19.1 billion in sales in 2015. Other companies have been working on hepatitis C treatments as well, with pharmaceutical company AbbVie’s competitor coming in at $83,319 for a course of treatment and a third cure, which was approved in January, which costs $54,600 per treatment.