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$1,000-Hepatitis C Pill Earns Pharma Company A Record-Breaking $2.3 Billion

The launch of Sovaldi, the $1,000-a-day pill for hepatitis C, is shaping up as the most successful ever.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the pill in December. And then Gilead Sciences was off to the races. The company said it sold $2.27 billion worth of Sovaldi in the quarter that ended March 31. $2.27 billion!

The boffo number beat Wall Street’s estimate for the quarter by more than $1 billion.

Sovaldi is the first hepatitis C pill that doesn’t have to be accompanied by interferon for some types of hepatitis. Sovaldi has been found to be remarkably effective, essentially curing 90 percent or more patients with a common form of hepatitis C in 12 weeks.

"Sovaldi’s profile has the potential to transform the treatment of hepatitis C, and the rapid uptake speaks to a significant unmet medical need," Gilead CEO John Martin told analysts and investors during a Tuesday conference call.

But the price of the drug has drawn fire. “The predicted costs of the new oral antiviral agents are as breathtaking as their effectiveness,” said an editorial in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. “Costs alone cast a pall over the stunning success in achieving the long-hoped-for goal of a safe and effective therapy for hepatitis C.”

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Photo: Sovaldi, a daily oral treatment for hepatitis C, costs $1,000 a pill. (Courtesy of Gilead Sciences)

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