by Carlos E. Castañeda

FOSTER CITY (CBS SF) — The maker of a hepatitis C drug that costs about $1,000 per pill on Wednesday delivered a quarterly earnings report that shattered expectations, showing the company tripled its profit which is now in the billions.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) said its net income hit $3.66 billion in the second quarter, up from $772.6 million in the same quarter a year ago.

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The company’s breakthrough hepatitis C drug Sovaldi – which cures the deadly liver disease in 90 percent of patients – fueled the profit hike, generating nearly six billion dollars in sales in just the first half of 2014, according to the earnings report.

After adjustments, earnings came to $2.36 per share, revenue more than doubled to $6.53 billion from $2.77 billion a year ago, while forecasted annual sales are pegged at $23 billion, all soaring past Wall Street forecasts.

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Foster City-based Gilead has garnered criticism over the cost of Sovaldi – $84,000 for a 12-week treatment – prompting  lawmakers this month to demand Gilead justify the price of the drug.

There are also concerns that high demand for the drug will put a financial strain on government-run health plans and private insurers.

Gilead believes the pricing for Sovaldi is fair, considering the immense benefits of the drug, and that Sovaldi may also prevent liver cancer as well as the need for expensive liver transplants.

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