amfAR Report Examines Controversial Pricing of Hepatitis C Treatment

Joana Casas
Original Article:

NEW YORK, Feb. 17, 2015 – Despite important price reductions for some low- and middle-income countries, the exorbitant drug pricing of breakthrough treatments for hepatitis C (HCV) infection will inevitably limit access to the drugs, leading to unnecessary loss of life, according to a new report from amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. While the new drugs have made curing HCV easier and more effective, the report finds that the aggressive pricing of the treatments will place an unjustifiable and unsustainable burden on healthcare systems in the U.S. and around the world, with potentially devastating consequences for people living with HCV.

Globally, as many as 185 million people are living with hepatitis C, including more than three million Americans. HCV is a blood-borne disease that can be transmitted sexually and perinatally as well as through needle sharing, unsterilized medical equipment, and contaminated blood products. Chronic HCV infection can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. It is estimated that up to 350,000 people die every year due to HCV-related liver disease.

The new amfAR report, titled “Hepatitis C and Drug Pricing: The Need for a Better Balance,” urges structural changes that alter the pricing incentives for pharmaceutical companies in such a way that they cannot charge exorbitant prices for their products, however effective they may be. Among the HCV drugs highlighted in the report is sofosbuvir, which is priced at $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment in the U.S. Marketed as Sovaldi by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, sofosbuvir has a much higher cure rate, is easier to administer, and has fewer side effects than older hepatitis C treatments.

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