Welcome to HCV Advocate’s hepatitis blog. The intent of this blog is to keep our website audience up-to-date on information about hepatitis and to answer some of our web site and training audience questions. People are encouraged to submit questions and post comments.
For more information on how to use this blog click here, the HCV drug pipeline click here, and for more information on HCV clinical trials click here
Drugs in Development / Clinical Trials—Updated July 8, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Underserved and Overcharged: Why those who most need the Hepatitis C cure are least likely to get it
Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer, has decided to sell the medication, named Sovaldi, at a cost of $84,000 per twelve-week treatment regimen. Raymond Schinazi, one of the scientists who helped formulate the drug, estimates that this same treatment regimen costs only $1,400 to produce. At this price, insurance companies and government programs will be reluctant to cover the medication, and it will be inaccessible for most people living in low- and middle-income countries, who account for 90% of HCV cases worldwide.
The prohibitive cost has put health advocates in a bind. Alan Franciscus, of the HCV Advocate, an organization that publishes an HCV-focused newsletter on www.hcvadvocate.org and runs 40-60 trainings each year with public health workers, patients and doctors, is one example. He has found that Gilead has had good patient assistance program for uninsured patients in the past, which he has encouraged people to use. Yet in spite of this he has remained concerned about how the cost will affect insurance companies’ willingness to cover the medications, and has felt that he has had to “be silent on the question of cost.
Click here to access this new publication: Emerging Clinical Issue: Hepatitis C Infection in HIV-Infected Men Who Have Sex With Men and here for a list of other resources.
Dr. Mel Krajden, a hepatologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said the new treatments are a public health "miracle."
Read more, including an interview with C.D. Mazoff
July 28th is the 7th World Hepatitis Day. AASLD makes use of this opportunity to pause and reflect on the significance of viral hepatitis, progress made so far, and future challenges. As hepatologists, we tend to focus on the common forms of chronic viral hepatitis – that is hepatitis B and hepatitis C, but we should not forget the toll of morbidity and even mortality associated with acute hepatitis A, hepatitis E, and hepatitis D.
It has been my personal privilege to have worked in the field of viral hepatitis for more than 30 years now and I have been witness to incredible changes and progress. Following the discovery of the hepatitis B virus in 1965, a safe and effective vaccine was developed and had been widely deployed by the end of the 1980s. The last ten years have brought several highly potent and effective antiviral drugs to the market, so that now we can legitimately claim that we can control hepatitis B through vaccination and therapy. Work is already underway to try and develop new agents that might eliminate hepatitis B viral infection, not just control it.
Hepatitis is contagious. For example, the Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a contaminated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days. Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.
Medicare can help keep you protected from some of the common strains of hepatitis: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period (you need all 3 shots for complete protection).
There’s a third type of Hepatitis—Hepatitis C. Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:
- You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use
- You had a blood transfusion before 1992, or
- You were born between 1945 and 1965
Reposted from Medicare.gov
Since then, hope for success in the battle against this chronic, infectious, life-threatening disease has never been higher than it is right now. Public-health officials have united in urging those at risk for hepatitis C to be tested and treated, resulting in many Americans now having easier access to screening. Medicare recently announced that hepatitis C testing will be provided as a no-cost preventive service in primary care. Breakthrough drug treatments with high cure rates became available only last year, with additional promising treatment options to be approved in the next year.
In short, tools to eradicate hepatitis C in the United States have arrived.