Gilead is a pharmaceutical company that is currently most known for creating the revolutionary Hepatitis C drugs, based on an active molecule sofosbuvir, under a trademark name Sovaldi (400mg sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (400mg sofosbuvir/90mg ledipasvir). The tablet medication called Sofosbuvir provides a high cure rate and far fewer side effects than everything previously used to treat Hepatitis C.
In 2013, Gilead Sciences was known as primarily for its HIV medications. However, the company's stock price rose more 392% in just two years because of the discovery of Hepatitis C cure. Today, the company is the biggest player on Hepatitis C market with little competition. In short, Gilead has roughly speaking a monopoly on Hepatitis C market and this is why they have clear hands to pretty much put any price tag on Sovaldi and Harvoni, and Hepatitis C will be forced to buy it.
Dark side of Pharmaceutical Industry
In today's world, having a cure for Hepatitis C doesn't by itself cure anybody. Gilead Sciences will only offer to sell the life-saving medication to patients with deep enough pockets. Because an alternative is in many cases death, Gilead thinks it is justifiable to price their sofosbuvir pill regimen extremely high.
For example, the drug company Gilead appears to be holding 233,000 Australians to ransom by demanding billions of dollars for the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. Every day 2 more Australians die of hepatitis C and with cure rates of over 95% these deaths are largely preventable.
How Hepatitis C medication price is crippling national healthcare providers
While these drugs have been approved by the PBAC to go onto the PBS, Gilead is asking around $84,000 per patient from the Australian Government. At that price the total bill to treat everyone would be over $20 billion which is double what the PBS currently spends annually on all medications for all Australians.
We have recently heard Australia may be offered the same price as France which is slightly better at 41,000 Euros ($64,000 AUD / $45,000 USD) but still puts the bill to treat our population at a staggering $15 billion Australian dollars. This compares with Gilead's price in Egypt of only $900 USD ($1200 AUD) for the same medication.
In Europe, Gilead chose a price in a neighbourhood of 60,000€ for Sovaldi at first. However, both France and UK refused for Gilead to sell the much needed Hepatitis C medication as such high prices - it would literally cripple their healthcare system. Even if only a few percentage of Hepatitis C patients were treated, treatment costs for a single man or woman could have saved more than 100 people of less severe illnesses for the same amount of funds. Joined by Germany, Europe negotiated lower costs on the medicines - as low as 40,000€; which is still considerably higher than what healthcare budget of all countries can handle. Even in the modern world, doctors and healthcare providers are forced to be rational about using the cure. One would think if the humanity can produce a Hepatitis C cure for less than $100 per treatment, that everybody would be saved and no one would need to die from this terrible illness.
The truth is quite the opposite. Every day people die because they could not afford the high prices of Sovaldi and Harvoni that Gilead is demanding.
If we had seen similar behaviour by the companies that developed treatments for diseases like polio, smallpox, and tetanus we would almost certainly still be plagued by them. Worldwide about 150,000,000 people suffer from Hep C so this is a massive global health issue.
The core of the problem
So what's the problem? The problem is simple, and can be summed up in one word - greed.
Greed on a scale so large that it makes Gordon Gecko look like a saint.
Gilead, the drug company which owns the patent, is asking for $1000 a tablet, for something that costs them around $1 to make. That's close to an eye watering 100,000% mark up and represents $84,000-168,000 per patient for something with a manufacturing cost of around $100. Clearly that's out of reach for most of the estimated 233,000 Australians currently suffering from chronic hepatitis C. This year alone nearly 350-500,000 people will die of hepatitis C - that is one person every minute and will sadly include over 600 Australians.
If Henry Ford was alive today, at Gilead's markup, a family car would cost $30,000,000 and Gardasil vaccine would cost $4500 a dose, not the $4.50 Merck make it available for to the world's poorest people.
Now I'm a capitalist and understand drug companies need to make big profits on drugs they've developed to cover the cost of all the failures but Gilead did not develop sofosbuvir, rather, they simply purchased the company that did develop it for $11 billion in 2011. Gilead have already earned over $22 billion from sofosbuvir, so have no need to engage in what some might call predatory pricing. It's also interesting to see Bloomberg Business reporting Gilead Avoids Billions in U.S. Tax on Its $1,000-a-Pill Drug.
If the Australian government was to pay Gilead's asking price it might cost $20 billion to treat everyone who could benefit - nearly 4 times a much as we spend on the 140,000,000 GP consults a year and twice what we spend on all the other drugs supplied to Australians on the PBS combined. We can't afford that price tag, but while negotiations drag on patients continue to die.
One company stands between humanity and access to the hep C cure. We stand for equitable access, and the information you will find on this website can help you to get cured. The WHO defines regards these medications as essential medicines:
Essential medicines, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) are
"those drugs that satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population; they should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms, at a price the community can afford."
$900 for Egypt, $45,000 for Australia. If Egypt, with a per capita income of $10,790 can afford $900 how is it that Australia, with a per capita income of $42,450 can afford not 4 x but over 40 x the price (based on 41,000 Euro being $45,000 USD)?