This is what a lot of Hepatitis C patients were asking themselves. Harvoni vs Sovaldi was a very important topic when Sovaldi was already on the market and Harvoni was only being approved by FDA and it is still a very important topic now. Sovaldi and Harvoni are both Hepatitis C drugs by Gilead Sciences which contain active ingredient sofosbuvir and have a more than 90% cure rate. So what is the difference between Harvoni and Sovaldi?
Harvoni vs Sovaldi History
Before Gilead Sciences drugs Harvoni and Sovaldi, there was only the old interferon treatment for Hepatitis C patients. Because it demanded to inject oneself every day and had low success rate a new modern drug was needed. On 6th of December 2013, FDA announced Sovaldi may be used for Hepatitis C patients. The majority of doctors and patients alike welcomes the new medicine with high cure rate and mild side effects. However, it was largely known that Gilead is working on an even better than Sovaldi medicine – Harvoni. Therefore, many patients did not receive Sovaldi treatment because Harvoni, the better solution, was on the way. On 10th of October 2014, less than a year after Sovaldi launch, Harvoni got FDA approval. From now on, a large majority of Hepatitis C patients are receiving Harvoni as the first choice of treatment. Nonetheless, comparing Harvoni vs Sovaldi, we can see that Sovaldi a very good drug. So what makes Harvoni better?
I have Hepatitis C but my doctor advised me to wait for Harvoni to come out. My friend is taking Sovaldi for Hep C but I'm left waiting for Harvoni. Why is that? (Melissa Sullivan, North Dakota)
Harvoni vs Sovaldi Cure Rate
Cure rate before Sovaldi and Harvoni was less than 50%. Clinical studies conducted by Gilead Sciences have revealed that Sovaldi and Harvoni are much more successful than interferon treatment. But how much more? Here are Harvoni vs Sovaldi cure rate numbers.
Genotype 1 – Harvoni
For the prevalent genotype 1a and 1b patients (75% in the US) cure rates of Harvoni vs Sovaldi are very similar (cure rate around 87%). This is the most important genotype. However, there is a difference in side effects and cost. Based on cure rates we cannot say which one is better – Harvoni or Sovaldi. Nevertheless, the first choice of treatment is usually Harvoni because it is a stand-alone medicine. Sovaldi has to be used with ribavirin and peginterferon alfa. Interferon causes serious side effects and patients have to inject it via a needle. For these reasons, doctors prescribe Harvoni instead of Sovaldi for a majority of genotype 1 chronic Hepatitis C patients.
Genotype 2 – Sovaldi
Harvoni is not approved for treatment of genotype 2. Additionally, genotype 5 and 6, from which only small amount of patient exist, is also not treated with Harvoni. In this Harvoni vs Sovaldi case, Sovaldi is the winner because only Sovaldi is approved to be used for genotype 2. Cure rate as per clinical studies is above 90%.
Genotype 3 – Epclusa
For genotype 3 Epclusa is used instead of Sovaldi because of higher cure rate as per clinical trials. Here the reasoning is the same as for genotype 3 – Epclusa vs Sovaldi side effects are much milder in a case of Epclusa because it a 1 pill per day treatment, while Sovaldi needs to be taken with ribavirin pill as well, and additionally with interferon shots.
Genotype 4 – Harvoni
What should you get for genotype 4? Harvoni is the correct answer. With similar cure rates doctors commonly prescribe Harvoni due to more mild side effects.
Harvoni vs Sovaldi Mechanism of Action
In order to understand why there is a difference of success rate, cost and side effect between Harvoni in Sovaldi we can look in the mechanism of action of both drugs.
Harvoni pill is comprised of 400 mg of sofosbuvir and 90 mg of ledipasvir. Sofosbuvir is the active ingredient that inhibits Hepatitis C virus growth in both Harvoni and Sovaldi and help the immune system to cure the disease. The molecule itself ‘conveniences' Hepatitis C virus to use it as a building block and thus prevents the further building of new Hepatitis C viruses while our immune system fights the existing viruses. Ledipasvir is used with sofosbuvir in Harvoni pill and works in a similar manner as sofosbuvir by inhibiting virus growth. This is how Gilead produced a so-called synergetic effect of both active ingredients which are at the center of successful Hepatitis C treatment. Ledipasvir was also developed by Gilead Sciences and it seems to have little side effects. The majority of side effects comes from sofosbuvir.
Sovaldi consists of 400 mg sofosbuvir pill. In short, the only difference between Harvoni vs Sovaldi is that Harvoni has 90 mg ledipasvir added in the pill. However, side effects of Sofosbuvir are more substantial. This is because Harvoni patient being treated for Hepatitis C only takes 1 Harvoni pill per day and nothing else. On the other hand, a patient of Sovaldi has to take ribavirin pill and usually a shot of peginterferon together with Sovaldi. By itself, Sovaldi has milder side effects than Harvoni but also a lower cure rate. However, the treatment requires Sovaldi to be taken with ribavirin and interferon to achieve the optimum effect.
Harvoni vs Sovaldi Side Effects
Hepatitis C is a deadly disease and treating such a dangerous disease are usually drugs that themselves have serious side effects. Lack of those in Harvoni is another testament at the quality the revolutionary pill presents for Hepatitis C patients. When comparing Harvoni vs Sovaldi side effects we can clearly see why Harvoni is a better drug. In the infographics below you can see how mild Harvoni side effects are.
Sovaldi side effects, however, are not so mild. If you do Harvoni vs Sovaldi comparison it is obvious that Sovaldi is more dangerous to use. Here are some more serious side effects:
- lower back or side pain
- pale skin
- ulcers, sores, or white spots in the mouth
- unusual tiredness or weakness
This effect is due to ribavirin and interferon. Fever, for example, is a clear side effect of interferon because of immune reaction again it and the rising of body temperature as a reaction to what body considers an ‘infection'.
Most of the patients have to deal with fatigue and headaches. One of the best self-treatments everybody can use are B-12 vitamin supplements. What is recommended for all Hepatitis C patients, on treatment or not, are healthy liver enzymes based on milk thristle. By far the most used and versatile supplement to keep you liver safe and healthy is Liver Support Natural Formula.
You can read our full post about Harvoni Side effect here.
Harvoni vs Sovaldi Cost
One of the major issues surrounding new Hepatitis C treatments is their cost. When Gilead first introduced Sovaldi on the market with a price tag of $84,000 per standard 12-week treatment media was ablaze about the astronomical cost of Sovaldi. However, a year later Harvoni came out with a cost of $94,500 per treatment. This is US Harvoni costs, you can check out here for the
This is US Harvoni costs, you can check out here for the cost of Harvoni around the globe. In short, Harvoni is $10,500 more expensive than Sovaldi. Check out the article about Harvoni cost to see how you can save 25% on Sovaldi or Harvoni cost with Gilead financial aid.
Harvoni vs Sovaldi cost comparison makes sense for genotype 1, 3 and 4 where there the cure rate is similar. In most cases Harvoni is chosen because for Sovaldi one also needs to buy interferon and ribavirin pills which add to the whole cost of the treatment. For genotype 2 there is, unfortunately, no alternative and patients can only choose Sovaldi. Nonetheless, significantly higher cure rates of both Harvoni and Sovaldi than previous treatments in fact justify the price of the treatment.
Get generic Sovaldi or Harvoni from India
For most Hepatitis C patients, the price of both medicines (Sovaldi costs $80,000 and Harvoni costs $94,500) is absurdly high. This is why they are actively seeking for generic versions such as Hepcinat. The cost of Hepcinat LP is little above $1,000.