Hepatitis C and Drug Costs

Hepatitis is one of the major causes of liver transplants and a transplant is not completely effective; the virus and symptoms return in some patients.  Last year it was announced that Hepatitis C was eradicated in some patients using new antiviral drugs: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/30/256885858/-1-000-pill-for-hepatitis-c-spurs-debate-over-drug-pricesThis was huge news in the liver transplant world.

Hepatitis researchers call the drug a landmark in the treatment of this deadly infection. More than 90 percent of patients who get the new drug can expect to be cured of their hepatitis C infection, with few side effects.

As a comparison, the drugs used for treatment of HIV suppresses the virus but the Hepatitis C drugs kills the virus completely.  As a result, a transplant would no longer be necessary and more organs would be available to others on the liver transplant waiting list. It’s hard to put a price on good health and discuss the cost of life-saving treatment. In our macroeconomic setting, it’s not a simple supply and demand curve that defines the price of goods. As such, there’s already a debate on how much the drugs should cost.

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