Hepatitis C Treatment Costs: What You Should Know
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. Infection with hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and cancer. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted by exposure to blood or other bodily fluids that contain HCV.
Approximately 3.5 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C. About 19,000 of these people die each year from cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Fortunately, recent advancements in the fight against this virus have changed the outlook for people with HCV. New drugs have transformed the disease from one that can, at best, be controlled to one that can be cured for most people who have it.
However, a downside to these successful drug development efforts is their hefty cost of treatment. Read on to learn how much these treatments can cost, what makes them so expensive, and how your treatment for HCV can be more affordable.
New lifesaving drugs
A few years ago, cure rates for the top-performing HCV drugs — interferons and ribavirin — were around 60 percent. Most of these medications had to be given by injection. Almost all of them had side effects so severe that some people abandoned the treatment.
The newer drugs available today cure up to 99 percent of people who take them, depending on the type of HCV infection and treatment exposure.
These new drugs are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first of these medications for HCV treatment in 2011. Several more medications have been approved since that time.
Most of these individual drugs are effective for specific strains, or genotypes, of HCV. However, some newer combination medications, which contain two or more drugs, work for all genotypes.
DAAs may be used alone or, very often, in combination with other drugs. Most are available in pill form. Typically, these pills have far fewer side effects than previous treatment options.
Why the high costs?
At this time, there’s a short list of blockbuster HCV drugs. Because the FDA only recently approved these drugs, the companies that manufacture them have market exclusivity. That means only these companies can promote and sell the drugs. It also means there are no generic versions of these drugs yet. Generics are typically much cheaper than brand-name versions.
The FDA determines how long this period of exclusivity will last. During this time, the pharmaceutical companies have a lot of freedom in establishing prices. And those who developed the new HCV drugs have set the pricing bar high.
The table below highlights the average cost of treatment for the combination DAAs currently available. Most of these drugs take at least 12 weeks to cure HCV, while the most recently approved drug, Mavyret, can take only eight weeks.
The Real Cost of Hep C Medications
When it comes to modern hepatitis C drugs, the patent owners argue that despite their high prices it is still a fair deal. And it is, if we compare these antivirals to their only alternative – liver transplant – that can easily cost $250,000 and more.
Everyone knows that the market price of these drugs is set according to its “perceived value” and has nothing to do with their production cost. However, very few of us know how much (or rather, how little) the wonder drugs cost to produce.
Dr. Andrew Hill and his team from the University of Liverpool have recently performed a study about large-scale manufacturing of modern hepatitis C antivirals. The results are shocking, to say the least. The minimum manufacturing costs of antivirals were estimated at $0.2–$2.1 per gram. For instance, a 12-week course with daclatasvir and sofosbuvir would costs less than $200 dollars to produce. Put the exact same active ingredient in branded packaging (Daklinza® and Sovaldi®), and it is sold at $141,000. This actually means that the profit margins for hepatitis C meds are way higher than those of illegal drugs!
Manufacturing costs of hepatitis C meds were estimated at $0.2–$2.1 per gram.
That’s less than $200 per treatment course.
Dr. Hill’s study also explains why it makes perfect sense for Big Pharma to sign license agreements for generic production, like the ones signed with Indian pharmaceutical companies in 2015.
The retail price of generic drugs in India is around $1,100, while the production costs varies between $10 and $136. This colossal profit margin is then split between the originator company and the Indian manufacturer.
The Real Cost of Hepatitis C Medications | Cure-HepC http://www.cure-hepc.com/hepatitis-c-medications-real-cost/