Are hepatitis C drugs too expensive?

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Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 12.59.26 PMAs we discussed here two months ago, Gilead s Sovaldi a revolutionary treatment that can actually cure hepatitis C was under attack for its cost ($1000 per daily pill for 12 weeks, or $84,000).

Now the attacks have intensified. Just yesterday, there were at least 10 commentaries written about Gilead almost all of them negative. But is this fair?

In his blog Antibiotics the Perfect Storm ACSH advisor and infectious disease expert Dr. David Shlaes argues no: Before Gilead s Solvadi, the standard treatment was 24 52 weeks of interferon plus ribavirin. Interferon causes fever, chills, depression, low blood counts and a number of other problems.

It might be easier to go through the interferon treatment if you knew it would work. But this is far from true. Shlaes continues, Sometimes transfusions are required to maintain blood counts throughout a course of therapy. And after you have finished the entire course, the failure rate of this therapy can be as high as 50%.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom points out: Critics conveniently note the costs of not using Sovaldi. The cost of the previous standard of care interferon and ribavirin was about $30,000.Liver transplants cost more than $500,000, and must be followed by a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs (about $20,000 for the year following the transplant) to prevent organ rejection.

He adds, In 2012, the FDA approved eleven new cancer drugs. Many of them gave patients only a few extra months to live, and the cost of these drugs was usually about $100,000 per year. Sovaldi is looking pretty good by comparison.