Sara White, Doctor of Pharmacy, Masters in Public Health and is the resident expert on drug pricing, generics and healthcare accessibility.
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. However, there are new drugs that have a high cure rate for most hepatitis C infections.
This article covers the cost of Harvoni, a drug that has a very high cure rate for hepatitis C.
Cost of Harvoni?
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that damages the liver over time. In 2014, new hepatitis C drugs were invented that can cure most people with hepatitis C.
The cost of Harvoni is $94,500 for 84 tablets for 12 weeks of treatment. The 8 week treatment course with Harvoni is $63,000 for 56 tablets. Some hepatitis C patients have to take Harvoni for 24 weeks course, which is $189,000 for 168 tablets.
Now, these prices are high according to Dr. Steven Flamm, of Penn Center for Viral hepatitis, but when you compare the prices to a liver transplant its a fraction of the price.
Many pharmaceutical companies and scientists are working on new ways that to reduce the cost of hepatitis C medicine.
Why is the cost of Harvoni high?
We all understand that pharmaceutical companies invest billions of dollars on research and innovation.
Large pharmaceutical companies like Merck, Gilead Sciences, Abbott and many others have a very difficult time on deciding on how to price the cost of hepatitis C treatments.
Usually, most hepatitis C treatments are always more expensive than their predecessors, like Peg-Interferon and Ribavirin.
Today, the direct acting antivirals (DAAs), that cure hepatitis C, were developed and patented by Gilead Sciences. The drug patent reduces competition from other large and small drug manufacturers.
Right now there is no competition for manufacturing and distribution; the price of Harvoni is going to be high.
Price of Harvoni is also high because only a small number of Americans will take this hepatitis C treatment.
Smaller the number of patients the higher the cost of each tablet of Harvoni ($1,125).
Approximately, 3.5 million Americans suffer from hepatitis C, but only half know they have it.
United States Centers for Disease Control Presents Key Facts:
- Hepatitis C is spread from an infected person to a non infected person by blood.
- Most with hepatitis C do not show any symptoms, but it they do show symptoms, then the liver disease can be at an advanced stage.
- Liver cancer is caused by hepatitis C and liver transplants are the leading result.
- Those born between 1945 to 1965 (Baby Boomers) have the highest rates of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C Prevention Tips from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Get tested if you were born between 1945 to 1964
- Get tested if you have had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before 1992
- Do not share needles
- Injecting drug users have a high risk of hepatitis C transmission
Drug pricing is very complex. Many millions of Americans are infected with hepatitis C and researchers are working towards making it more affordable.
Hepatitis C Drug Costs
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved direct acting antiviral medications in tablet form to treat hepatitis C in 2014.
Today, there are several hepatitis C treatments that have been approved by the FDA, but still the costs remain high.
The cost of Harvoni varies between insurance plans, pharmacy and the patient’s medical history.
With that said, there are an average or approximation of the cost of Harvoni, according to the University of Washington.
Harvoni (ledipasvir 90mg and sofosbuvir 400mg) is $1,125 per pill. 84 tablets for 12 weeks course is $94,500, 56 tablets for 8 weeks course is $63,000. The 24 weeks course is $189,000.
The costs of Harvoni are high for the treatment of hepatitis C.
There are new treatments developed by researchers that are $54,600 for a 12 week course of treatment.
We should see the price of hepatitis C treatments come down.
Cost of Harvoni Covered by Insurance?
Insurance coverage of hepatitis C often depends on the insurance policy and general health of the patient.
If a patient has not responded well to previous hepatitis C treatment or if the patient is showing signs of advanced liver disease, then insurance companies sometimes offer to pay or cover the cost of Harvoni.
A patient must be free of alcohol and drug use to be eligible for treatment for most insurance companies.
This process helps insurance companies to save money when treating hepatitis C patients.
Once a patient find out they have hepatitis C or is diagnosed, their doctor will recommend various hep C treatments.
Then, the insurance company will find out which treatments (medicine) the patient is eligible under their insurance plan coverage.
What if you don’t have insurance?
There are options if an insurance plan does not cover for treatments.
Patient assistance programs help with lowering the cost of some specific treatments.
For more help with costs, see the following resources:
My Support Path was setup by the manufacturers of Harvoni, Gilead Sciences and is a good place to start to get prescription assistance for your treatment.
Another great source for discounts on hepatitis C treatment is Needy Meds, they have helped millions of people with reducing the price of everyday prescriptions. They also can provide a solution for Harvoni.
The American Liver Foundation has made available a Drug Discount Card that may help alleviate the costs of Harvoni and other new hepatitis C treatments.
Understanding the process of getting financial assistance and lower price discounts can be hard and challenging.
A patient may talk to their doctor to recommend a specialist that focuses on financial assistance or a social worker that has experience getting lowered price treatment for Harvoni.
It is worth the time and effort to research all options to get treatment and cured of hepatitis C.