As readers of my blog know, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C several years ago. I waited until the ‘new’ three drug treatment regimen was given the green light by the FDA.
That regimen included Interferon-Pegasys weekly self- injections, Ribovirin and the ‘new’ drug, Telaprivir. The Telaprivir was used for the first twelve weeks of the 48 week treatment program and the cost of it was $ 48,000+ for twelve weeks worth of the drug, or as my doctor said…a brand new Toyota Corolla a month.
The side effects of these drugs were very debilitating and can cause people to lose quite a bit of time off from work.
Most people don’t know that there are over three million Americans known to be infected with the disease. Another thing a lot of people don’t know is that veterans have the disease at a much higher rate than the civilian population, about 17-20 percent as opposed to around 1 percent in the general population.
According to Fox News, there is a new treatment regimen on the horizon without all the debilitating side effects of the aforementioned drugs:
In the race to find a faster cure for hepatitis C, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co said it will test its experimental antiviral drug combination with Gilead Sciences Inc’s blockbuster drug Sovaldi, hoping to cut treatment time to four weeks.
Bristol-Myers disclosed plans for the exploratory 30-patient trial testing its three-drug combination with Sovaldi in an interview with Reuters. Eric Hughes, the leader of Bristol’s global hepatitis program, said the details were due to be posted on the clinicaltrials.gov website next week.
Sovaldi’s $84,000 price tag for a 12-week treatment has spurred outrage among insurers, state health officials and lawmakers who fear the cost of treating millions of Americans with the progressive liver disease will top $250 billion. Insurers are pushing Gilead’s rivals to offer lower prices when their hepatitis C medicines reach the market.
Using the drug for a shorter course of treatment could, in theory, lower the cost, even when combined with Bristol’s therapies. Rivals Merck & Co and AbbVie are also racing to develop next-generation hepatitis C treatments that cure most people of the virus in a shorter time frame.
Good news indeed, especially if they can really get the treatment down to a month instead of the current 24 to 48 weeks of treatment.
“The position and concept of pharma is not ingredient costs or duration of treatment cost. Pharma is looking at it as cost per cure,” said John Whang, co-president of Reimbursement Intelligence, which works with pharmaceutical companies and payers to help determine prices for medicines.
The cost could come down, he said, “but it’s not going to be proportionate to the degree that the duration of treatment shortens.”
The new generation of oral drugs being developed by several companies has raised hepatitis C cure rates to well above 90 percent from about 75 percent without the need for interferon or ribavirin, which caused miserable side effects that led many patients to delay or drop treatment. The drugs in clinical trials have already cut treatment time to 12 weeks from 24 to 48 weeks.
“We got rid of the tolerability problem. We got rid of the efficacy problem. Now there is a tremendous drive to get down to shorter treatment durations,” Bristol-Myers’ Hughes said in a telephone interview.
So according to big pharma, it’s basically…how badly do you want to be cured of the disease and how much how much is it worth to you?
I received my treatment through the VA, so my treatment cost me about $ 27 bucks a month for the co-pay. I’m thankful for that because I couldn’t have afforded it otherwise, especially after having to miss a lot of work because of the side effects of the ‘old’ treatment regimen.
All in all, good news for people who are infected with the disease. I would also recommend that people get tested to make sure you don’t have it, especially ” baby boomers”, as there has been shown a higher incidence of infection in this particular demographic.