Calif. Panel, VA Recommend Costly Hepatitis Drugs for Sicker Patients
In a report released on Monday, the California Technology Assessment Forum recommended that the hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Olysio should be used immediately to treat individuals with advanced liver disease or those awaiting transplants but that prescribing the medication should be delayed for less-sick patients, Kaiser Health News reports. On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs made similar recommendations.
Details of the Drugs
The new drugs were created by Gilead and Janssen Therapeutics.
Use of Sovaldi and Olysio has been controversial because the medications can cost as much as $1,000 per pill and treatment costs per patient can reach between $70,000 and $170,000.
However, the drugs often are more than 90% effective in treating the disease. If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause chronic liver disease in 60% to 70% of infected individuals, according to CTAF.
Details of Recommendations
According to KHN, the CTAF and VA recommendations are the first "large-scale efforts" to determine which hepatitis C patients should be treated first.
Both reports said limiting the number of patients with access to the drugs is important because of the medications' high costs.
Rena Fox, a professor at UC-San Francisco who helped conduct research for the VA report, said, "If these were a penny a tablet, we would want to treat everyone [b]ut for the time being, we have only a certain number of hepatologists out there with experience using these drugs, and we cannot treat the whole population," adding, "[N]ot everyone needs to be treated immediately."
Steve Pearson, who oversaw the report by CTAF, said, "It's not unreasonable for payers to figure out ways not to treat everyone," adding, "There will be other drugs available soon that may be even better" (Appleby, Kaiser Health News, 4/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.