The Price of a Cure was written by Daryl Luster. Daryl is a hep C advocate who is PHCN’s president, a member of the Executive Steering Committee for Action Hepatitis Canada, a counselor for the Help-4-Hep helpline, and the administrator of multiple peer support groups. Daryl was cured of hep C in 2010 while participating in a clinical trial.
The Price of a Cure
Since before the new therapies were discovered there was limited access to treatment. Even though as many as 40%-50% of people were attaining SVR/cure with the Interferon and Ribavirin combination, people were not being treated in large numbers. Many waited for new options, hoping for something easier to tolerate with much higher cure rates, but this was not the whole story. There is no question about the difficult side effects that made treating their hep C impossible for some to consider, and many decided not to treat because of what they read and heard from people who did take the perilous leap. Some were told that they did not need to treat because their virus was “not active” and they would die from something else first.
We know this is nonsense now, as we are seeing more people with advanced fibrosis and the consequences of living with HCV over time.
In just a few short years things have changed dramatically. New drug therapies offer a cure for nearly everyone living with chronic hepatitis C. This is an amazing story, and may be one of the most significant discoveries in medicine in decades.
Yet one major theme we have heard since the first entry on the new therapy scene is about cost.
The media has had a field day with the high costs associated with curing people of hep C. We have read and heard about how we will be bankrupted by the high prices, whether part of a public or private payer system. Until recently, less has been reported in the mainstream media about the great benefits of new hep C treatments.
I have chosen personally to focus on the value of curing more people and what the human cost will be if we don’t treat people. Another thing I have spoken and written about is my belief that we will see prices drop in a more competitive market with new drugs coming online.
I remain hopeful that this will happen soon, and will be disappointed if it doesn’t.
I am a believer in the free market, and think that severe regulatory pressure can potentially stifle development or make for more inequity globally, but there are some things that are more important than shareholder profits and free-market ideals. This is one.
In my view, price should not be the greatest determinant in access to care and treatment for any illness, and HCV is no exception. The difficult part is in how we manage, negotiate, and develop policies that assure equitable access.