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Hep C Pricing
New therapies can cure most cases of hepatitis C but lower drug prices, testing and better access to treatment are going to be needed to eliminate the liver-destroying virus worldwide, according to a New England Journal of Medicine editorial.
The U.S. government is trying to attain that goal by discouraging states from limiting access to the drugs and encouraging drug companies to reveal their pricing agreements so states can get the best deal on the expensive therapy, said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of viral hepatitis, who coauthored the editorial.
“We can look forward to eliminating hepatitis C in the future” with the right combination of pricing and testing, Dr. John Ward told media.
The editorial coincides with the formal release of results from four international phase 3 trials showing that the combination of two Gilead Science drugs, sofosbuvir and velpatasvir, can wipe out a chronic hepatitis C virus infection with 12 weeks of therapy.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies has reacted by notifying the states that people with a chronic HCV infection should not be denied care.
The center also called for drug manufacturers to disclose their value-based pricing agreements, but Ward said the request has no force of law.
“Pharmaceutical companies should be making public their negotiated prices with health plans so the marketplace can take effect and competition can thrive, with better pricing and affordability,” he said.
“At a population level, the effect of HCV medications will be determined by affordability and equitable access to HCV testing, care, and treatment,” Ward and Mermin write. “Only through these improvements can our focus be directed to what matters most: reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with HCV infection, stopping HCV transmission, and ultimately eliminating HCV as a public health threat in the United States and worldwide.”