- After Democratic presidential longshot Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) found out that the Department of Veterans Affairs has run out of money to treat hep C with Gilead's pricey Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), he asked the VA to break the patents—which he says is legal, FiercePharma reports.
- Gilead has been continually criticized from payers and governments in the U.S. and abroad for the cost of Sovaldi—$1,000 per pill, and roughly $84,000 for a 12-week regimen, which is intended to be curative.
- Sanders said that he has learned that, although 20,000 veterans have been treated with Gilead's hep C drugs, another 200,000 who could benefit from the drugs are unable to get them, because the VA has run out of funds.
Gilead continues to defend its prices by saying that high prices today will help to offset higher prices later on by preventing downstream complications; however, payers are not buying it.
Express Script has accused Gilead's drugs of having the potential to bankrupt the healthcare system—and went a step further by negotiating deep discounts with other companies. Granted, the VA, which is one of the largest public payers outside of Medicare and Medicaid, already receives discounts on Gilead's hep C drugs. But according to Sanders, this just isn't enough.
The idea of breaking the patents, which breaks IP laws in many cases, is allowable, according to Sanders, because as a federal agency, the VA can invoke a wartime provision to fight profiteering. It will most likely not come to this, but Sanders' statements have turned a glaring light on the plight of hepatitis C-infected veterans unable to get the latest standard of care.