All Aboard the Hepatitis Cruise Ship

June 5, 2015

Americans are trying to think out of the box when it comes to securing affordable versions of Gilead Sciences' hepatitis C drug Sovaldi -- a treatment that costs $84,000 in the U.S.

Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, suggested docking a cruise ship flying an Indian flag off the Miami coast and ferrying U.S. patients to India so that they may obtain Sovaldi at 1% of the cost. According to Miller, “This is what the market is demanding, this level of creativity that almost borders on the ridiculous.”

Bloomberg reports that there are 3.2 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis C.

High drug prices have lead to an emerging cottage industry of medical tourism agencies offering patients affordable copies of Sovaldi, which has been shown to cure at 90 percent of people suffering from hepatitis C. Agencies and consultants are building networks of foreign doctors and hospitals willing to prescribe the drug to U.S. patients.

Meanwhile, Gilead is making an effort to improve Sovaldi access in the U.S. by negotiating with insurers and government and setting up a patient payment assistance programs.

Read the Bloomberg article