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Offline Clark

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$1,000 Hepatitis Pill Shows Why Fixing Health Costs Is So Hard
« on: September 02, 2014, 01:36:27 PM »

$1,000 Hepatitis Pill Shows Why Fixing Health Costs Is So Hard
Critics Raise Concerns About Sovaldi
Margot Sanger-Katz

A new drug for the liver disease hepatitis C is scaring people. Not because the drug is dangerous — it’s generally heralded as a genuine medical breakthrough — but because it costs $1,000 a pill and about $84,000 for a typical person’s total treatment.
Research on the cost-effectiveness of Sovaldi is still in the early stages, but it appears that use of the drug has the potential to actually save money over the long run. Data from the C.D.C. suggest that more than 60 percent of people with hepatitis C will end up with chronic liver disease — and as many as 20 percent will end up with cirrhosis. Treating those diseases is costly. A liver transplant, the most expensive option for the small group of patients with end-stage disease, costs nearly $600,000.
Because the drug cures around 90 percent of patients who take it, public health researchers believe it has the potential to reduce the spread of the disease to others, eliminating the future costs of treating their disease and any complications.
But for all the panic, the crisis may soon wane. New, effective drugs are about to enter the market to compete with Sovaldi, offering other options with high cure rates and low side effects. And a more competitive market is likely to drive down the drug’s price, once payers can choose to cover only the drug that is the best deal.
The pent-up demand of patients who have been waiting for a cure will work itself out over the next few years. The PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates show big costs for treating hepatitis C over the next two years, then a sharp decline as the untreated population dwindles.
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