Gilead Sciences said Tuesday that sales of its hepatitis C pill Sovaldi totaled more than $2 billion in its first full quarter on the market, and it said quarterly net income tripled.
The company reported $2.27 billion in first-quarter sales of Sovaldi, which was launched in the U.S. during December and was approved in Europe in January. Revenue from its four-in-one HIV pill Stribild climbed to $215.3 million from $92.1 million.
Gilead's net income rose to $2.23 billion, or $1.33 per share, from $722.2 million, or 43 cents per share. Excluding one-time items the company said it earned $1.48 per share in the latest quarter. Its revenue nearly doubled, to $5 billion from $2.53 billion.
Analysts were forecasting net income of 92 cents per share and $3.96 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.
The hepatitis C virus can cause severe liver damage. Sovaldi is designed to work faster than previous drugs while curing more patients: in clinical studies it cured 90 percent of patients with the most common form of the virus after 12 weeks of treatment. Patients with a less common subtype of the virus can take Sovaldi plus an older drug, ribavirin, to cure their infection. They don't need to take interferon, an injectable drug that can cause nausea, diarrhea and other unpleasant side effects. Sovaldi is the first drug that can successfully treat hepatitis C without the decades-old injection.
The Foster City, Calif., company reported $139.4 million in revenue from Sovaldi during the fourth quarter.
While Sovaldi has been a massive commercial success, the drug's $1,000-per-pill price tag has generated pushback from some doctors and patient groups. Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences has priced Sovaldi at $84,000 for one 12-week course of treatment. And some patients may need to take a second course, raising the price to $168,000.
In January, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation urged state Medicaid providers to deny coverage for the drug until Gilead agrees to lower the price. The group, which provides HIV testing and prevention services, argues that Sovaldi's price "will unnecessarily drive up health care costs and limit access to potentially lifesaving care."
Earlier this week the California Technology Assessment Forum, which assesses the costs and effectiveness of new medical treatments, recommended that Sovaldi only be used to treat the patients with the most severe liver conditions. The insurance industry-affiliated group said use of the drug should be limited due to its high cost.
Gilead Sciences Inc. shares rose $1.26 to $72.86 on Tuesday then added $1.72 in late trading to $74.58.