Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good news about a dangerous disease (hepatitis), at a high price

The good news is that there's a cure. The bad news is that it isn't cheap. Here's the NY Times headline on what is proving to be a blockbuster drug:
$1,000 Hepatitis Pill Shows Why Fixing Health Costs Is So Hard--Critics Raise Concerns About Sovaldi

"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."

The story raises a number of interesting points.  Here's one:

"Until now, doctors would mostly treat hepatitis C patients’ symptoms. Some drugs attacked the virus itself, but they did not work very well. And most had side effects, including fever, depression and anemia, that about half the patients were not healthy enough to tolerate.

Those drugs were also expensive — the most effective drug cocktail before Sovaldi cost about $70,000 — but because few patients chose them, the price tag did not cause a big reaction. Sovaldi is different. Patients want this drug, with its high success rate and smaller list of side effects. That means a big financial shock to the health care system all at once."

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