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UnitedHealth Group Picks Harvoni (Ledipasvir/Sofosbuvir) as Preferred Hepatitis C Treatment

Companies strike discount deals

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, has backed Gilead Sciences’ Harvoni, a combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, as the preferred hepatitis C treatment on its 2015 commercial drug coverage list, according to an exclusive report from Reuters.

Gilead and AbbVie Inc. have been battling for dominance in the hepatitis C market since the approval in December of AbbVie’s Viekira Pak (ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir tablets; dasabuvir tablets). Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have been striking deals for preferred or exclusive status in exchange for discounts for 2015.

UnitedHealth’s drug coverage list, which is effective February 1, applies to all of the company’s commercial, fully insured customers who use its Optum RX pharmacy benefit manager and to self-insured customers, such as large employers who follow the drug list.

The update to UnitedHealth’s formulary also applies to its Medicaid, Medicare, and military contracts.

Gilead set off a firestorm last year when it launched Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), a breakthrough treatment for hepatitis C, with a per-treatment price tag of $84,000. Insurers, including UnitedHealth, were caught off guard by the drug’s high cost.

Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, pushed back against the price of Sovaldi and Gilead’s follow-up drug, Harvoni, which has a list price of $93,400. It backed AbbVie’s Viekira Pak, saying it had gotten a significant discount.

UnitedHealth is the last of the top three U.S. insurers to strike a deal with either Gilead or AbbVie. Reuters reported two weeks ago that Aetna Inc had backed Gilead, as have Anthem Inc and Humana Inc. Pharmacy benefit manager CVS Health also went with Gilead, whereas smaller competitor Prime Therapeutics kept both on its list.

The state of Missouri earlier this week said it had selected AbbVie’s Viekira Pak for Medicaid patients who meet certain criteria, and said the agreement would reduce treatment costs by 30% to 40%.

Source: Reuters; January 28, 2015.

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