Hepatitis C, known as a disease which affects about 3.2 million in the United States has become curable for $84,000 per patient, as insurers say. Gilead Sciences Inc. created a new medicine, Sovaldi, which may have a success rate of over 90 percent, but its price is the main problem not only among patients, but also insurers. Therefore, the United States health insurers are now seeking help from state health officials to pay for the new hepatitis C treatment which could cost the country at least $200 billion in the upcoming five years.
Several insurers like Molina Healthcare, known for administering health plans for the Medicaid program for the poor in California, stated that hepatitis C is curable for $84,000 per patient, but they also demand the states to pay for the drug. As a result, insurers are now looking at treatments which include Solvadi, the $1,000-a-day pill, but also other cheaper medications from different companies. The new drug could help millions of Americans with a simple 12-week course and Gregg Alton, executive vice president of corporate and medical affairs at Gilead stated that the government systems should see the long-term benefits attached to the new treatment, Solvadi, namely that there will be no more costs for liver failure and transplant or liver cancer.
Although insurers say that hepatitis C has become curable for $84,000 the price could reach $150,000 when combined with Olysio, but the Food and Drug Administration will decide later this year on the combination drug.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation believes that Gilead knows the $84,000 treatment could be the cure for a deadly disease like hepatitis C and it is currently exploiting its supremacy.
Moreover, even if state health officials would accept to pay for each American suffering from this disease, it would cost $227 billion, which is a huge amount compared to the approximate $260 billion spent on a yearly basis for all the drugs available in the country. Gilead’s new treatment does not have the side effects that most approved therapies have, namely anemia, nausea, insomnia and flu-like symptoms.
U.S. health officials have advised baby boomers between 1945 and 1965 to be screened for the virus, especially since it takes even decades before symptoms appear. The officials also stated that over two million people could be infected, so this is another reason why the authorities have not decided yet if the cost of at least $84,000 per patient can be covered.
At the same time, Gilead stated that it may also sell drugs in India, but the price could be $2,000 for the 12-week treatment, because the medicine price tag is “tailored” to the market. Alton added that the company’s “global pricing model is based on a country’s ability to pay.”
Meanwhile, Colorado officials recommended doctors not to approve the new treatment for hepatitis C until the product’s review is finished. The state officials issued a statement on February 19 regarding the ongoing evaluation which aims at determining “the appropriate coverage criteria for Sovaldi.” Taking into consideration the disease’s slow progression and the appearance of new treatments on the market, officials have taken the liberty to further evaluate the current situation. Insurers say that hepatitis C has now become curable for $84,000 per patient.
By Gabriela Motroc