April 17, 2014
This article was reported by The Guardian.
The Guardian reported that National Health Service (NHS) England plans to treat approximately 500 individuals with end-stage liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection using the new drug sofosbuvir. Present treatments are not successful with all patients, while studies show that the new drug has cured 90 percent of people with HCV infection. Of the approximately 216,000 HCV-infected individuals in the United Kingdom, the 500 who will receive sofosbuvir treatment are seriously ill and in danger of dying; many are on a waiting list for liver transplant.
In the United Kingdom, sofosbuvir costs £34,983 per patient for the 12-week treatment program. NHS England plans to spend £18.7 million to treat the 500 cases without waiting for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's (NICE) guidance. Although NICE will assess the drug this year, the government has been urged to begin using it because of the dire condition of so many individuals. The Hepatitis C Trust applauded NHS England's decision. The trust had warned that people may die while awaiting NICE's decision; Chief Executive Charles Gore has complained of the United Kingdom's slow drug approval process.
James Palmer, clinical director of specialized services at NHS England, commented that the decision exemplified NHS England's "commitment to widen access to cutting edge drugs, treatments, and therapies where both clinically appropriate and cost-effective." NHS England expected that NICE would find the drug cost-effective compared to the cost of caring for a chronic HCV patient or a liver transplant, which can cost more than £50,000.
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