Your money or your life?
A new pill which can cure liver-wasting disease in 9 out of 10 patients called Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C, can cost more than $90,000, making it unreachable for many, according to The Associated Press.
Leading medical societies recommend the drug as a first-line treatment, but insurance companies and state Medicaid programs are argue the price is too high, the AP reported. But if Sovaldi didn’t exist, insurers would still be paying in the mid-to-high five figures to treat the most common kind of hepatitis C, a new pricing survey indicates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 3 million people in the U.S. are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Many may not even know they carry it.
Over time, the contagious disease damages the liver and can contribute to liver cancer and liver failure. Some patients need liver transplants.
Until recently, hepatitis C was a disease with few good treatment options.
Doctors typically prescribed a 48-week combination of the protein interferon and the antiviral drug ribavirin with the aim of clearing the virus out of the body. The regimen’s side effects included fatigue, depression and flu-like symptoms.
Since 2011, doctors sometimes added in the viral inhibitors boceprevir or telaprevir. That brought the length of treatment down to 24 weeks, in some cases.
Last year the Food and Drug Administration approved Sovaldi, made by Gilead Sciences Inc., and Johnson & Johnson’s Olysio. Both work to halt the replication of the virus over 12 weeks.
At about $1,000 a pill, a full course of Sovaldi can cost up to $84,000 per patient. When combined with interferon and other drugs, as some guidelines suggest, the full cost of a course of treatment can surpass $130,000.
Olysio is nearly as expensive as Sovaldi, costing roughly $66,000 for a 12-week treatment course.
The payoff is a remarkably high cure rate. Estimates suggest more than 90 percent of patients who take the new drugs emerge clear of the hepatitis C virus.