The price of Gilead Sciences' game-changing hepatitis C drug is back in the spotlight following comments from a leading insurance trade group in the USA adding its voice to claims that $1,000 per pill is unsustainable.

An American Health Insurance Plans blog has reignited the debate on Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), noting that although the drug "has shown tremendous results, and it’s the kind of medical innovation we need to sustain…unfortunately, the drug’s maker – taking advantage of a lack of competition – has priced it at an astronomical level that is not sustainable for consumers, innovation, or society".

The AHIP notes that a 12-week course of Sovaldi costs $84,000, and "it’s typically prescribed along with other medicines and courses of treatments that can boost the cost to $150,000". The blog goes on to claim that "Sovaldi is only the beginning", as "more and more specialty drugs and other high cost prescriptions are coming into the marketplace that hold tremendous potential for patients, but are being priced in a way that threatens Americans’ access to them".

Gilead has been the target of much criticism since the hugely-successful launch in December of Sovaldi, heightened by its first-quarter sales of $2.27 billion. The company has continually defended the price on the grounds that the drug cuts total treatment costs for HCV and provides a cure.