Philadelphia's transit agency, SEPTA, has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against the drugmaker, Gilead, over the cost of its Hepatitis C drug known as Sovaldi.
The three month regimen costs about $84,000 dollars and SEPTA says it has already spent more than $2 million on it.
Sovaldi hit the market last December. Compared to past treatments, it boasts fewer side effects and a higher likelihood, 90 percent or more, that a patient will clear certain strains of the virus.
Nick Chimicles, a Haverford lawyer representing SEPTA in the suit, said already this year, the drug has cost SEPTA's health fund at least $2.4 million, "hemorraging" the agency as it tries to ensure "the drug reaches the people it needs to reach."
He said it amounts to price discrimination by Gilead. "This is not a reasonable profit, this is price gauging and this is something that has got to stop," he said.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that over time can lead to liver failure or cancer. A recent Philadelphia Health Department analysis found that about 3 percent, or some 47,000 Philadelphia residents, have HCV.
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Gilead said it just received the lawsuit and has no comment for now. In the past it has defended the drug's price, pointing to its long-term benefits from a short-term treatment, one that can prevent the need for costly liver transplants down the road.
Chimicles is not aware of any other health plan or company that has yet filed a lawsuit against Gilead over the drug's price. The price, however, has been a major point of debate across the country since it came out last year.