Here are the five most expensive prescription drugs in 2016 as compiled by prescription drug comparison website GoodRx -- and which companies are profiting from them.
The price tag for hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug Sovaldi is a whopping $75,600 for a 30-day supply. Sovaldi's developer, Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD), launched the drug in December 2013. Sovaldi's popularity stemmed from its efficacy. The drug cured upwards of 90% of patients with HCV genotypes 1, 2, and 4 and 84% of patients with HCV genotype 3 in clinical studies.
The generic form (sofosbuvir) is being distributed at 1 percent of the U.S. cost in many low-income countries, Bloomberg Business reports.
It's not surprising that the second most expensive drug is Sovaldi's successor, Harvoni. Harvoni cost $74,000 for a 30-day supply according to GoodRx's data. Harvoni's astounding financial performance was the result of cure rates even higher than those for Sovaldi. The drug also does not have to be taken in combination with another therapy.
A simple antihistamine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 70 years ago may be an effective and affordable way to treat hepatitis C, new research shows. The drug Chlorcyclizine costs 50 cents per dose. The discovery could be a significant breakthrough in efforts to bring hepatitis C treatment to marginalized people around the world.
Cinryze, an injectable drug used to help prevent swelling and pain in patients with hereditary angioedema (HAE), cost $72,100 for a 30-day supply. HAE is a rare genetic disorder that affects no more than one in 10,000 people. No alternative.
- H.P. Acthar
H.P. Acthar is perhaps the most controversial member of the list of the five most expensive drugs in 2016. The drug, which first won FDA approval back in the 1950s, comes with a price tag of $51,600 for a 30-day supply. H.P. Acthar is also the most expensive drug on a per-patient basis for Medicare. The controversy about H.P. Acthar stems both from its price and its efficacy. (Mallinckrodt (NYSE:MNK)
Two Oregon Health and Science University (OSHU) researchers decided to investigate how much Medicare was spending on Acthar after newspapers reported that its price — once $40 per vial — had jumped from $748 in 2001 to $34,034 in 2014. That translates into more than $100,000 to treat one patient with a short course of Acthar, compared to prednisone or similar steroids that cost no more than a few hundred dollars.
Like Sovaldi and Harvoni, Daklinza treats HCV. And, like the other two drugs, Daklinza is also quite expensive, with a 30-day supply costing $50,700. However, it is still less expensive than the other two drugs. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) gained U.S. approval for the drug in 2015.
Price versus value
There's no doubt that all of these drugs are very expensive. However, the drug companies would point to the healthcare costs that their HCV drugs save and maintain lives and that the high price tags represent a good value overall. The argument about price versus value will continue into 2017 and beyond. And it's likely that the price tags for the most expensive drugs next year will be even higher, regardless of which drugs make the list.