Sunday, July 17, 2016

Patient, Kim Crisell, forced to pay £1k for overpriced hepatitis C drug

 A BUSINESS owner was forced to pay more than £1,000 for a life-saving drug, because it was too expensive for the NHS.

Kim Crisell, owner of Angling Essentials in Church Street, Witham, was diagnosed with hepatitis C three years ago.

Because pharmaceutical company Gilead sell the treatment, Harvoni, to the NHS for £35,000, compared to just £500 in some countries, Mr Crisell was forced to use an online buyers’ club.

Mr Crisell did not know the lethal virus had been lying dormant in his system for 30 to 40 years. While on a ferry on his way to a rock concert in Amsterdam Mr Crisell, 60, believes he ate some uncooked sausage where he contracted hepatitis E, a version of the virus that normally does not require treatment.

However, because Mr Crisell already had hepatitis C in his system there were significant complications.

He said: “I started feeling groggy after I had eaten the food and I was feeling worse as time went on.

“I went to my GP when I got back and they took some blood tests. As the week went on I kept feeling groggy, I had a customer come into the shop and say I was orange.

“I rang my consultant who had treated me when I had a pancreatic tumour removed and asked what I should do.

“I was told to go straight up to Broomfield A&E and they admitted me and kept me in for a couple of weeks.

“I have never done hard drugs or used needles, the only thing they could put it down to was a tattoo I got in 1976 during my time in the Air Force.”

 Hepatitis C is a deadly virus that can cause damage and scarring to the liver, cirrhosis, and lead to liver failure.

The cost of a 12-week course of the life-saving drug is £35,000 for the NHS, yet it costs around £500 in Australia and even less in India and China.

Mr Crisell described the cost as “criminal” and believes the company had America in mind, where health insurance companies would be forced to pay out for it.

He said: “The NHS has its hands tied when all these companies can charge an obscene amount of money.

 “Because of the financial considerations the NHS can only afford so many prescriptions and I was at the back of the queue.

“In December I came across this buyers club called FixHepC, run by an Aus- tralian Gp, James Freeman.

“He set it up so people could have access to the drug through clinical drug trials. I paid £1,100, did an online consultation with the GP and a week later I got the drugs.

“I started taking the drug in January and 12 days later when I had a blood test the virus was undetectable.”

A spokesman for NHS England said: “The NHS’ single biggest new treatment investment this year is providing these high-cost treatments to thousands of people with Hep C, in accordance with NICE guidance.

“As prices come down we hope in future years to be able to expand treatments even further within the funding available, and the industry is now engaging in the discussions with us about how best to do this.

“But where one drug company currently has an effective monopoly on some treatment subgroups, they can’t be forced to agree lower prices.”

A spokesman for Gilead said: "In the UK, the price of treatment should not be considered as the limiting factor in patient access.

"Our hepatitis C regimens have been deemed cost effective by NICE at list price. 

"In the spirit of collaboration, the Gilead regimens are offered to the NHS with discounts to these already cost-effective prices."

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