Many Hepatitis C patients who need $1,000 pill find it out of reach

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A revolutionary new drug that can cure Hepatitis C costs more than $1,000 a pill. The cost is making it difficult for patients who desperately need the drug to get it.

Marvin Williams is in the University of Kansas Hospital fighting Hepatitis C. The virus results in Williams having a liver transplant two years ago. Now, it's attacked his kidneys.

"The pain is almost sometimes immeasurable," said Williams.

His doctors say there is an answer. It's a new drug called Sovaldi that is at least 90 percent effective in ridding the body Hep C, and with few side effects. But Sovaldi costs more than $1,000 a pill, and at least $84,000 for full treatment. For months, Williams' insurer has balked at covering it.

"It shouldn't cost that much. It should be readily available for those to have a second chance at life," said his wife, Cynthia Williams.

This week, The National Coalition on Health Care, which includes insurers, businesses, unions and others who pay for health care, said the price set by the manufacturer Gilead "represents an abuse of market power."

Gilead responded that the cost is justified because the medicine cures Hepatitis C and can prevent costly complications and transplants.

"The cost of this medication is a fraction of that," said Dr. Richard Gilroy, referring to the cost of a liver transplant.

Still, the liver specialist at K.U. Hospital says Sovaldi is too high-priced in the U.S. considering it costs at least $20,000 less in other countries. He believes the price will drop.

"And here's why the price will come down. There are other companies making drugs like this," said Dr. Gilroy.

Competition should be on the market in a matter of months.

This week, Williams got great news. His insurer will pay for Sovaldi.

"This is supposed to be that magic bullet," said Williams.

He knows it's a magic and expensive bullet.

The National Coalition on Health Care also said the drug's cost threatens the government's budgets for Medicaid and Medicare, and it could result in higher premiums for people with private health insurance.

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