The new therapies have remarkably high cure rates
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Amy Norton
MONDAY, March 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- New hepatitis C drugs promise cure rates above 90 percent, but could prove to be budget-busters for public and private health insurers, a new analysis finds.
Recently approved drugs for chronic hepatitis C have been heralded as a breakthrough that could make the liver disease "rare" in the United States. But with prices topping $1,000 per pill, government and private insurers are balking -- often putting limits on which patients qualify for coverage.
Now two new studies in the March 16 Annals of Internal Medicine conclude that for individual patients, treatment with the pricey pills is "cost-effective." That's a calculation that takes into account the years of better health and quality of life people will likely enjoy.
The bad news? One study estimates that state governments and insurers will have to dig up an extra $65 billion over five years to get the drugs to every eligible American.
And that won't be offset by the money saved by avoiding hepatitis C complications -- which amounts to about $16 billion.
"One of the arguments has been that these expensive drugs will ultimately save us money," said study leader Jagpreet Chhatwal. "But our data show that's clearly not the case."
He stressed, however, that none of this means that patients should not be getting the new drugs -- which include the oral drug sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and a combination of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir marketed as Harvoni.
"We know these drugs are good, and patients need treatment," said Chhatwal, an assistant professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "High costs shouldn't be an obstacle."
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation in the liver; for most people the infection becomes chronic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C.
Without treatment, about 15 percent to 30 percent of those people will develop cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, according to the CDC. Smaller numbers develop liver cancer.
But for decades, the only treatment for the disease involved the injection drug interferon -- which had to be taken for up to a year, and often caused fatigue and flu-like side effects. And, the cure rate was only 40 percent to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
source : Hepatitis C Drugs Will 'Strain Budgets' at Current Prices: Study