The $1,000 Pill That Saves Lives
If you have hepatitis C, you need the drug called Sovaldi because it cures 9 out of 10 patients. Hepatitis C destroys your liver. Patients that have this bad form of hepatitis clamor for the drug and the doctors want to prescribe it as first line treatment, yet the cost! While the cost is huge, if the pill did not exist, patients would still be paying nearly similar costs for the this dreaded virus. The cheaper treatment take longer and have more side effects.
Hepatitis C is carried by three million Americans and many are unaware of this. It transmitted via blood and sexual activity. The virus has proven to be much more complex to control and gradually destroys the liver. A liver transplant runs nearly $600K. In 2007, 15,000 died from the virus surpassing those with AIDS. For those with the virus, most medical insurance will only pay up to $4K per year on drugs. Part of the treatment for C is extended interferon treatments that produce Alzheimer's like effects. Sovaldi reduces the length of interferon treatments.
Veterans can get the drug at a much less cost, $45,000, through the VA. There is also another drug, Olysio, which is similar to Sovaldi. The maker of the Sovaldi drug had reaped in huge profits in just three months - $2.3 billion! Gilead,its maker, indicates demand is huge worldwide and states the pill can save one's life, so $90K is worth it, right?
The $90K treatment and cure for patients means that the best price break they can get for one pill is $1000. The VA gets the same pill for $773. There are cheaper and less effective treatments, such as, using Victrelis, an older version, costs $48,000. The other treatments using the new Olyisio came to $89K.
Kaiser health insurance considers the price of the pill out of whack, but will issue it to patients despite the cost. In other countries with price controls, the cost is much, much lower. US insurers don't like controls,
While Sovaldi still requires interferon treatments, Gilead is already on the verge of a newer drug to fight the virus that will require no such treatments. One can imagine how much that will cost.
But, at what cost is too much for a human life?