Sovaldi Alone Could Raise Medicare Costs 8% - Higher Than Any Increase Since 2008, Senate Finance Committee Says | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Add a new set of pricing foes for Gilead Sciences ($GILD). A U.S. Senate committee has joined the forces arrayed against the company's breakthrough hepatitis C drug Sovaldi and its $84,000 price tag.

But this time, Gilead's adversaries are using different ammo. Rather than focusing on the sheer expense of treating millions of Americans with the pricey drug, the senators are digging into the acquisition that brought Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) to Gilead. And they're questioning treatment protocols quickly revised to include Sovaldi, approved by the FDA late last year.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Senate Finance Committee dispatched a letter to CEO John Martin on Friday, taking issue with Sovaldi's $1,000-per-pill price. Like other critics of the expensive drug, Sen. Charles Grassley, long a thorn in pharma's side, and panel chairman Sen. Ron Wyden demanded justification for its steep price. Treating only one-tenth of Medicare's hep C patients would add $2 billion to its immediate drug spending, the senators noted in their letter.

But the committee also asked for documents related to Gilead's $11 billion buyout of Pharmasset, Sovaldi's original developer. The smaller company had forecast a $36,000 price per treatment course, less than half of Gilead's current price. The senators asked to see Gilead's communications with its investment bankers, Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, about their valuation of Pharmasset during merger talks and the related pricing assumptions for Sovaldi. They also want to know how much Pharmasset spent on R&D while developing the treatment.