The high cost of drugs to fight hepatitis C is the source of a growing debate among healthcare professionals, drug makers, and patients. – baltimoresun.com
New hepatitis C (HCV) drugs are too expensive for most patients. For example, “a standard course of Sovaldi costs $84,000, or $1,000 a day. And many insurers would not approve it for any but the sickest of patients.”
Additionally, barriers have been put up by private insurance companies and state Medicaid programs ‘aimed at controlling costs (which have) made it hard for patients to get the drug, with many left to worsen as they sought charity or appealed their cases.’ Dr. Paul J. Thuluvath said: ‘Here we had this disease we couldn’t cure, and this drug is developed and it’s almost like a miracle. I was so upset it was so expensive.’ Dr. Thuluvath is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and author of a forthcoming hepatitis guide.
An article in Forbes magazine noted that these high costs “are hitting Medicaid health insurance programs for poor Americans particularly hard because the population of patients in need of Hepatitis C treatments tends to have low incomes and wouldn’t be able to afford the drug otherwise. Medicaid is funded by state and federal tax dollars and administered by state governments.”
It is interesting to note that “According to the Express Scripts Drug Trend Report, ‘specialty’ drugs for chronic and difficult conditions accounted for just 1 percent of U.S. prescriptions but 31.8 percent of drug spending in 2014.” (1)The article in Forbes continued, “It’s unclear exactly how Medicaid programs will deal with … the coming wave of Hepatitis C drugs also expected to get Food and Drug Administration approval from Abbvie (ABBV), Bristol-Myers (BMS) and Merck (MRK).”
The bottom line?
New drugs will increase competition between the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the drugs. That’s a good thing, because it will drive costs down.
(1) Cohn, M. “Hepatitis C drug can cure, if patients can get it” Published July 18, 2015
(2) Forbes.com – As Pricey Hepatitis Pill Harvoni Joins Sovaldi, States Erect Medicaid Hurdles. Published October 10, 2014.