In his latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post blog, dated March 16, 2015, and published by TriLink BioTechnologies of San Diego, Dr. Gerald Zon declares that Gilead’s new drug Solvaldi™ for treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections is “truly a drug developer’s dream come true.” And Dr. Zon should certainly know, having been intimately involved in drug discovery and development for many years. He notes that the Gilead’s nucleotide-analog prodrug is reported to produce an over 90% cure rate in HCV-infected patients over a 12-week (84-day) course of treatment that involves simply taking one pill per day. That, Dr. Zon says, is “amazing.” However, he immediately remarks that this powerful benefit comes at a considerable expense, with a single Solvaldi pill costing $1,000 and a full-treatment cost of $84,000 per patient. He adds that the estimated manufacturing cost of manufacturing per pill is $68-$138 and this huge disparity between the cost and the price being charged has been the subject of considerable controversy. Particular concerns have been raised as to how this pricing will influence the impact of this drug in developing countries where HCV infection is relatively high, and also in U.S. prison populations where HCV infection is rampant. Before addressing these and other ticklish issues, Dr. Zon provides some useful history on the development of this “miracle drug.” Apparently, it all began with work by two companies, Pharmasset, which was founded on the East Coast in 1998, and Gilead Sciences, Inc., which was founded on the West Coast in 1987. Pharmasset did significant early R&D work on development of an oral drug for HCV treatment and this work ultimately allowed the company to go public in 2007. Dr.
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