Hepatitis C Debate Should Focus on Value of Innovative Medicines

Hepatitis C Debate Should Focus on Value of Innovative Medicines

04.15.14 | By Jennifer Wall

As the debate around the cost of Hepatitis C treatment rages on, a Bloomberg article yesterday highlighted other potential Hepatitis C medicines on the horizon and the many benefits they could provide for patients living with this debilitating disease.  What’s more, many of the potential new medicines might be able to offer patients fewer unwanted side effects and require less monitoring and follow-up care. 

Hepatitis C affects nearly 150 million people worldwide, and can severally damage the liver of infected patients. Hep C, as it’s commonly known, is spread primarily through the blood of an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Despite its tremendous value, much of the debate on the new Hep C treatment has focused almost exclusively on cost. It’s refreshing to see that Bloomberg covered the value of medicines because we know that they play a crucial role in helping prevent invasive liver transplant surgery, which can cost well over $500,000 on average and require many years of costly follow-up treatment and care.

Another aspect of the cost vs. value story that has been underreported is the growing trend of patients burdened with increasingly high cost-sharing for new medicines. Insurers have expressed reluctance to cover the new Hep C medicine that has improved cure rates from 50 percent to upwards of 90 percent, as well as shortened treatment duration from 48 weeks to as short as 12 weeks, and reduced side effects from debilitating to few.

As the wave of innovative new treatments for Hep C approaches, let’s hope that insurers start recognizing the role of medicines in thwarting disease progression and costly acute care.    

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