| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Wonder drug for hepatitis C has $90,000 price tag

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 8:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Your money or your life?

Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C, cures the liver-wasting disease in 9 of 10 patients, but treatment can cost more than $90,000.

Leading medical societies recommend the drug as a first-line treatment, and patients are clamoring for it. But insurance companies and state Medicaid programs are balking at the price. In Oregon, officials propose to limit how many low-income patients can get Sovaldi.

Yet if Sovaldi didn't exist, insurers would still be paying in the mid-to-high five figures to treat the most common kind of hepatitis C, a new pricing survey indicates. Some of the older alternatives involve more side effects, and are less likely to provide cures.

So what's a fair price?

The cost of this breakthrough drug is highlighting cracks in the health care system at a time of heightened budget concerns. The Obama administration has a huge political stake in controlling treatment costs, but its critics may cry rationing.

“People are going to want to try to dodge this hot potato,” says economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

For insurers, there's a frustrating twist: For each middle-aged person they pay to cure with Sovaldi, any financial benefits from preventing liver failure are likely to accrue to Medicare, not to them.

More than 3 million Americans carry the hepatitis C virus, and many don't realize it. It's a public health concern since the disease can be transmitted by contact with infected blood, and sometimes through sexual activity. Health officials advise all baby boomers to get tested.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. ‘12 Days of Christmas’ items top $34K, up 0.6 percent
  2. Upstate New York town threatened by Arizona man in online post, reports say
  3. Investors buy shares in college students: Purdue University thinks it’s wave of future
  4. New Navy destroyer Zumwalt’s seaworthiness questioned before sea trials
  5. Iraq War veteran, mother of 2 slain in Colorado clinic rampage
  6. ‘Crisis mode’ near at U.S.-Mexico line as nearly 5,000 children try to cross border in October
  7. Plasma burp seen in star’s destruction by black hole
  8. Pot doctors in medical marijuana states push boundaries with marketing
  9. Prescription skin drug costs skyrocket
  10. Hunt on for mother of baby buried alive in California
  11. Delay in Dungeness crab season takes toll on West Coast