How much does hepatitis C treatment cost?

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By
Rachel Nall, RN, MSN   
Reviewed
by Jill Seladi-Schulman, PhD
How
much is it? | Drug types and costs | Tracking costs | Insurance No insurance | Takeaway.
There is no vaccine to prevent
hepatitis C, but medical innovations in recent years mean that oral treatments
can cure most people. However, these newer drugs have a high cost that can make
paying for hepatitis C treatment difficult.
This article details
information about hepatitis C medications, and how, under certain
circumstances, people may be able to access help to pay for them.
How
much is the treatment?
Medication pricing is complex.
When new medications hit the market, they are more expensive than older ones.
The medications do not have
competition from other drug manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies can
control their distribution.
Over time, as companies
release competitor medications or the medicine is available as a generic drug,
the competition usually drives the market cost down.
Also, the smaller the demand
for a specific treatment, the higher the cost is of that medication. This is
because pharmaceutical companies have to make more money per unit, as they will
be selling the medication to fewer people.
Hepatitis C is a condition
that affects approximately 3.5 million Americans, with as many as half
potentially unaware that they have the infection, according to the United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The fact that hepatitis C is a
condition that affects millions of people should mean the drugs cost less. Even
so, current treatment regimens can be very costly.
Drug
types and costs


In 2014, the United States
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug treatments called
direct-acting antiviral medications that were available in oral form only to
treat hepatitis C, according to the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
Several medications to treat
hepatitis C have met FDA approval since then. Costs for hepatitis C treatment
remain high, however.
The price of drugs may vary
from between pharmacy, between insurance plans, and depending on a person’s
medical history. However, according to the University of Washington, the
following are some average medication costs for hepatitis C treatments:

  • Ledipasvir-sofosbuvir
    (Harvoni): The average wholesale cost for Harvoni is $1,125 per pill. An 8-week
    treatment course is $63,000 while a 12-week treatment course is $94,500 and a
    24-week one is $189,000.
  • Simeprevir (Olysio): The
    average wholesale cost for the medication is $790 per 150 milligrams (mg)
    capsule. A 28-day supply costs $22,120, and a 12-week supply costs $66,360.
    Sometimes a doctor will prescribe this along with the medication sofosbuvir,
    where a 12-week course of treatment for both medications totals about $150,000.
  • Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi): This
    medication costs $1,000 per 400 mg pill. The total cost for a 12-week course is
    around $84,000, and doctors will typically prescribe it with other medicines,
    such as simeprevir.
  • Ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir
    and dasabuvir (Viekira Pak): The cost for this medication is $83,319 for a
    12-week treatment course. The cost for a 24-week treatment course is $166,638.
These costs are subject to
change with market variables, the pharmacy a person is using, and the
availability of the drug.
Tracking
the costs of hepatitis C treatment
Researchers are continuing to
create medications that shorten the duration of treatment for hepatitis C.
According to the Pharmacy
Times, the cost of treatment can be as low as $54,600 for the 12-week course
and the entry to the market of new, cheaper drugs is likely to continue to
bring the cost of hepatitis C treatments down.
Will
insurance cover treatments?
The level of insurance cover
for hepatitis C treatments can vary, depending on a person’s insurance policy
and overall health.
Some insurance companies will
pay for people whose hepatitis C has not responded to less-expensive treatments
or for those who are already showing signs of liver damage.
Some insurance companies may
require a person to prove they have been drug- and alcohol-free before
authorizing treatment.
Insurance companies may
believe people who fall into these categories will cost them less money.
If a person has a hepatitis C
diagnosis, they may first ask what treatments their doctor recommends. Then,
they should contact their insurance company to find out what medications their
insurance plan may cover.
If
you don’t have insurance
Even if an insurance plan does
not provide cover for treatments, there are still some patient assistance
programs that help reduce the costs of specific treatments.
To find out about these,
people can try researching the following:

  • The Hepatitis C Mentor and
    Support Group, which maintains a listing of drug companies’ patient assistance
    programs and advocacy groups.
  • Individual drug companies,
    which may have information about their patient assistance plans.
  • The website Support Path,
    which is from the manufacturer Gilead, the company that makes several hepatitis
    C treatment medications, including Epclusa and Sovaldi.
  • Organizations that offer help
    to people with hepatitis C, including the American Liver Foundation, Hepatitis
    Foundation International, and NeedyMeds.
Obtaining additional financial
assistance and discounts can sometimes be a time-consuming and frustrating
process.
A person may wish to ask a
doctor to recommend a social worker or financial assistance specialist in their
office who can give advice on obtaining financial assistance.
Takeaway

Recent innovations in
hepatitis C treatment mean that treatment is usually successful. However, for
some people, the costs of these medications can be prohibitive.
While prices may decrease in
the future, there are currently no guarantees. Seeking out rebate programs and
financial assistance from specific organizations may help to make hepatitis C
medications more affordable.
SOURCE:
MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.