Treating 5 percent of hepatitis C patients with new drugs would reduce cost and infections, study shows
Treating 5 percent of all hepatitis C patients with the latest drugs would be more effective at reducing infections and health costs than the current approach.12 Oct 2015
The cost-benefits analysis by researchers from the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and other institutions compares three treatment options to the current approach, or "baseline" scenario, which treats patients in the most advanced stages of the disease when they may need a costly liver transplant.
"We made a mistake with HIV by limiting access to treatment to just people who had AIDS, and we ended up with a virus that has been with us for decades," said corresponding author Dana Goldman, the Schaeffer Center director and a professor at the USC School of Pharmacy and the USC Price School of Public Policy. "We didn't initially treat HIV aggressively enough in part because the science wasn't there to justify it. With hepatitis C, we have the science. We just need to find a way to finance it."
The researchers found that a "treat 5 percent" approach would reduce infections from 2.7 million to 39,000 cases in 50 years, compared with the current approach, relying on older drugs, which would reduce infections to 207,000 cases in 50 years. Under the "treat 5 percent" scenario, health care expenditures would drop below the baseline's costs within 20 years of implementation.
The researchers said that although treating all patients is the best option for reducing infections in 50 years to 1,400 cases, it is unrealistic, given the limits of health care funding.
The study, published Oct. 5 in the journal Health Affairs, is believed to be the first analysis to account for how the disease progresses in a patient and the ways in which it can spread.
It also differs from prior analyses in that it accounts for "social value"—the benefits of treatment for the patient and society, as well as drug manufacturer profits. Patient benefits include what researchers labeled as "Quality-Adjusted Life-Years" for patients. One QALY represents each year that a drug enabled a person to have perfect health, or it is equal to every two years that a drug enabled a person to live half as healthy.
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