Hepatitis C drugs remain unaffordable in many countries, says WHO study

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In the latest effort to quantify the burden of expensive medicines, a new study found that the cost of two widely used hepatitis C treatments remains out of reach for people in many poor countries and poses a “financial and ethical dilemma” for payers and doctors.

In general, current prices are unaffordable and, as a result, poorer countries may be paying higher prices than wealthier nations, according to the study, which appeared on Tuesday in PLOS Medicine and was conducted by World Health Organization officials. The authors examined 2015 prices for the Sovaldi and Harvoni drugs, which are sold by Gilead Sciences, in 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The study found that if a patient paid for treatment out of pocket, the cost of a full course of Sovaldi alone would equal one year or more of average earnings for people in 12 countries. For instance, when adjusting for rebates, currency differences, and purchasing power, Sovaldi cost $101,000 in Poland and $70,300 in Turkey, compared with nearly $64,600 in the United States.

Moreover, the total cost of treating all hepatitis C patients would equal at least one-tenth of the current annual cost for all medicines in all 30 countries where prices were examined. In some countries where prices are high and there are many infected with the virus, the total cost of treating everyone would be more than the cost of all other medicines combined, the study authors wrote.

Source: STAT (link opens in a new window)

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