Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Epclusa: The $75,000 cure for Hepatitis C

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Here's a question: how much would you pay for a life-changing prescription? The FDA is approving a brand new drug to cure Hepatitis C. Hep-C is a virus that attacks the liver.
According to clinical trial data reviewed by the FDA, Epclusa will cure up to 95% of cases. But the great news is tempered with what some call a hefty price tag.
Epclusa is what some are calling the $75,000 cure. Each pill costs $900.00. A full 12-week course of treatment costs nearly 75-grand before insurance.
Some residents in Tallahassee, couldn't believe it.
"That sounds a little high," says Mike McKinley.
"I don't have that kind of money," says John Easton.
"You can do a lot with $900, that can get you pretty far," says Miguel Mendoza.
But what seems extreme to some -- might actually be a bargain in the making.
"Those are good price values for the healthcare system." Dr. Dell Robertson is a professor at Florida A&M University. He teaches future pharmacists the science and business of pharmaceuticals. He says drugs like Epclusa have potential to be game changers.
"Epclusa, at it's price point now, tends to be a little cheaper than the Viekira Pak and the Harvoni, which are the current mainstays," says Robertson. Harvoni costs $1,125 a pill, and Viekira Pak costs $991 a pill. Full treatment on either can cost up to $90,000.
"What's included in the price is the research and development, and just to bring a drug to market could be hundreds of millions of dollars," says Dr. Robertson. "Just to bring a drug through the FDA approval process on the low end could be several hundred million dollars up to the low billions of dollars to bring a drug completely to market."
By comparison, Dr. Robertson says Epclusa and it's counterparts are cheaper than long-term hospital stays. A price tag -- that could come down in the near future.
"Competition in the market can reduce cost," say Dr. Robertson. "But the manufacturers still have a lot of back end investment that they have to make up."
An investment which leave some with sticker shock for the foreseeable future.
"A lot of people don't have that kind of money," says Easton.
"Hopefully there's some way they can knock that down," says Mendoza.
There are several patient assistance programs that can help make these medications more affordable.

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