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Gilead Hikes Prices on Older HIV Meds

Marketing strategy angers activists

Raising prices on older medications to steer patients toward newer ones is a common pharma tactic––and Gilead Sciences is now using it to bolster the launch of a new generation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs, according to a report from FiercePharma. Gilead has hiked the prices on a range of older meds by 7% to 10%. These increases follow the company’s annual price jumps, which went into effect in January.

Stribild (elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate), the much-anticipated four-in-one pill launched four years ago, saw a 7% boost in its wholesale acquisition cost (WAC), as did Complera (emtricitabine, rilpivirine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate), another top seller for Gilead. With the new hikes, the WACs for Stribild and Complera are now $2,890 and $2,508 a month, respectively, making them more expensive than Gilead’s new HIV drugs. Complera now sells for more than Odefsey (emtricitabine, rilpivirine, and tenofovir alafenamide), a follow-up pill, and Stribild costs more than its successor, Genvoya (elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide). Both of the new combination pills are designed to reduce the originals’ adverse effects by substituting tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) for a previous version of that drug, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF).

“We suspect that these increases were taken on the TDF-based regimens to help accelerate the switch from TDF to TAF in advance of TDF patent expirations beginning in 2018,” analysts at Cowen & Co. said in an investor note.

Gilead has been a popular target for AIDS activists, who protested the costs of the company’s earlier HIV meds with sit-ins and other events. Recently, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) launched a “Gilead Greed Kills!” campaign with a protest at the Goldman Sachs Healthcare Conference. The AHF sued Gilead earlier this year, claiming that the company delayed its TAF development in “a calculated, anticompetitive manner” to prevent generics-makers from grabbing market share when the TDF meds go off patent. Since then, the AHF has asked lawmakers and the FDA to investigate the company for patent manipulation and antitrust violations.

Gilead famously found itself in hot water when it put a $1,000-per-day price tag on its debut hepatitis C pill Sovaldi (sofosbuvir)––$84,000 per treatment course––and charged $94,500 for its follow-up combo, Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir). According to FiercePharma, the company quickly reaped billions in sales from both drugs, while many patients couldn’t afford treatment because their insurers refused to cover the pricey medications. Sovaldi and Harvoni were credited with the fastest drug launches ever, earning a combined $19 billion in 2015.

Source: FiercePharma; July 6, 2016.

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