Insurers, states strike hepatitis C deals with pharmaceutical companies

Both insurers and state Medicaid agencies are working to secure discounts on pricey hepatitis C drugs.

UnitedHealth Group chose Gilead Sciences Inc's Harvoni Wednesday as its preferred hepatitis C drug to be offered on its 2015 commercial drug coverage list, reported Reuters. UnitedHealth is continually working to update the drug coverage list, which goes in effect Feb. 1 and applies to Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries.

Elsewhere around the industry, Aetna, Anthem and Humana went with Gilead as well, according to Reuters, while Blue Shield of California backed AbbVie's Viekira Park--a Gilead competitor--as the preferred treatment for hepatitis C coverage, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Insurers and states alike have been eager to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical companies, especially considering the backlash Gilead's Sovaldi received last year after the company placed a $100,000 per person price tag on the drug. Harvoni is Gilead's follow-up to Sovaldi.

Missouri signed a deal with AbbVie this week to make Viekira Park the preferred drug covered by the state's Medicaid program, noted the WSJ. The drug will replace Sovaldi. AbbVie will "provide a rebate to states participating in the consortium."

Missouri's decision to switch Medicaid beneficiaries from Sovaldi to Viekira Park will cut treatment costs 30 percent to 40 percent and save the state $4.2 million, the WSJ added. Other states, including Connecticut, Alaska and Delaware, await further cost information before deciding.

Soaring drug prices have been a hot topic as of late. Last year, America's Health Insurance Plans called out the drug industry for soaring costs of speciality medications, saying drug pricing takes unfair advantage of insurers. AHIP proposes that the two industries should work out the problem of rising drug prices before the government steps in with drug cost reform, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the Reuters article
- check out the WSJ piece