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Is a $1,000 a pill drug really worth the cost?

The potential spread of Tetanus and Hepatitis B or C, has been associated with amateur tattoo and body piercing.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Although demand for Gilead Sciences’ Solvadi (sofosbuvir) to treat Hepatitis-C is climbing, the fact that it costs $1,000 per 400 mg pill is raising fears that those who need it most may not be able to get it as more and more health insurance companies balk at covering it. In fact, according to a report by the IMS Institute a 12-week treatment of Solvadi, along with two companion medications (ribavirin and peginterferon-alfa) that must be taken with it now costs $100,000. Still, this is “cheap” compared with regimens from other pharmaceutical companies, which range from the “mid to high five figures,” and are said to be less effective than Solvadi as well as cause more “nasty” side-effects. As a result, Solvadi has become the medication of choice for those here in the United States suffering from the liver-wasting disease.
At the same time, the pricing of Solvadi and other similar drugs has prompted an investigation by two senators who (according to an AP report) have come across documents that “suggest the initial developers of the drug at Gilead originally considered selling it for less than 50% of its current cost. Repercussions from the probe could end up opening a can of worms regarding other medications, particularly those for treating cancers, when it comes to dollar amounts, and the question of whether after finally achieving long-sought after break-through in the treatment, as well as possible cures, for devastating illnesses, “can we afford them?”

“You can’t put too fine a point on the sort of moral dilemma that we have here,” stated IMS Institute director Mike Kleinrock.

Solvadi, which is taken once a day, acts as a “nucleotide analog polymerase inhibitor designed to block a specific protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to replicate.”

Hepatitis C now affects forthan 3 million people here in the US, and has surpassed AIDS as a leading cause of death. Like HIV/AIDs it is most commonly spread by sharing contaminated needles (including those used for tattooing) as well as through, intranasal drug use, blood transfusions and organ transplants, childbirth from an infected mother, hemodialysis, and, in some rare cases, sexual contact. However, infection through transfusions and organ transplants has been increasingly rare here thanks to mandatory blood testing of all donated blood. You cannot get Hep-C by sharing utensils, hugging, or kissing an infected person.

Note: Acute hep C refers to the first 6 months of infection. While some people don’t experience any symptoms, others suffer from loss of appetite, fatigue, abdominal paif and jaundice. Chronic hep C occurs when the infection lasting longer than 6 months, and can lead to severe liver disease and/or cancer.

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