Spotlight Series on Hepatitis C

U.S. News

Cost of New Hepatitis C Drugs Ignites Debate About Who Needs Them Now

March 14, 2014

This article was reported by Washington Post.

The Washington Post reported that the California Technology Assessment Forum convened a 15-member panel of experts to weigh evidence on new hepatitis C treatments that cost from $66,000 to $84,000 per patient. The panel noted that although the new drugs -- Gilead Sciences' Sovaldi and Johnson & Johnson's Olysio -- could be more effective than older treatments, their cost could undermine their value to the health system. Sovaldi cost $1,000 for each pill, and Olysio cost slightly less.

Panel members representing hospitals, insurers, and patient advocates agreed that not every hepatitis C-infected person should receive immediate treatment with the new drugs. Rena K. Fox, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, urged companies to reduce the drugs' prices to avoid forcing healthcare providers to decide which patients' needs were the most urgent. The experts noted that additional treatments would be available within a year, and people with little or no liver damage could choose to wait.

The panel agreed that those with advanced liver damage should receive treatment first. Many hepatitis C-infected people were unaware they had the virus, and 70 percent showed no symptoms for decades.

Ryan Clary, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), stated that patients were more concerned about their health than about bankrupting the healthcare system. NVHR was a consumer group that received some funding from the drug industry.

Private insurers and Medicaid were considering how to cover the new drugs. Strategies under consideration included requiring prior authorization or limiting use of the new drugs to the sickest patients. Some Medicaid insurers were seeking additional funding from states. The panel would publish their recommendations for prioritizing patients for the new drugs and their comparison of the new drugs' effectiveness with older drugs in approximately one month.

Back to other news for March 2014

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.

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