Reuters Health Information: Express Scripts says AbbVie drug could displace Sovaldi on formulary
Express Scripts says AbbVie drug could displace Sovaldi on formulary
Last Updated: 2014-10-29
By Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) - Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding
Co said it may quickly change its preferred drug formulary to
favor an expected new hepatitis C drug from AbbVie if it is
clinically equivalent and less costly than Gilead Science Inc's
$84,000 Sovaldi and $94,500 Harvoni treatments.
Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), with its price tag of $1,000 a pill,
has become a lightning rod in a debate over the high cost of
specialty drugs, despite its cure rate of more than 90% and
gentle side effect profile.
"The cost of it is unsustainable for many of our plans,"
Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, told
analysts on a conference call on Wednesday, referring to
Sovaldi. The drug had third quarter sales of $2.8 billion even
though it was only approved in December.
Harvoni, approved this month by U.S. regulators, combines
sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (also from Gilead) and is expected to
dominate treatment of the liver disease that affects an
estimated 3 million Americans.
Miller said Sovaldi's cost is particularly hitting state
prisons and Medicaid, the insurance program for the indigent
funded jointly by states and the federal government, because
those populations have high rates of infection with the
hepatitis C virus.
Express Scripts said U.S. regulators by December could
approve AbbVie's product, which combines three drugs into a
"(We) are hoping they take a different approach when it
comes to pricing," Miller said.
But Adelle Infante, an AbbVie spokeswoman, said no price has
been disclosed for her company's drug, which does not yet have
a name. The suburban Chicago drugmaker is hoping it will be
approved this year.
Gilead officials could not immediately be reached for
The AbbVie product, like Harvoni, would not need to be taken
with interferon, a harsh injectable drug that for years had been
part of a standard regimen for the disease, which can quietly
harm or destroy the liver over a period of decades.
Should the AbbVie drug be deemed clinically equivalent but
less costly than Sovaldi and Harvoni, Express Scripts spokesman
Brian Henry said the Gilead drugs could be given lower priority
on its drug formulary, or be removed from it.
Express Scripts is the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit
manager. It administers drug benefits for employers and health
plans and also runs large mail order pharmacies.