|Just what impact will hepatitis C treatments have on medical spending over the next few years?|
The answer to this question has been the subject of heated debate thanks to the Sovaldi treatment sold by Gilead Sciences . The medication can cure 90 percent of the patients who have the most common form of the affliction, and costs $1,000 a day for a 12-week course, or $84,000 for one patient.
Medications for other diseases may be more expensive, but insurers worry about the potential outlay, given that approximately 3.2 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with hepatitis C, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Some estimates suggest the number is closer to 5 million. For months, state Medicaid programs and private payers have blanched at the cost.
Other drug makers hope to catch up to Gilead in the race to develop a still more effective and convenient treatment that works even faster. But it remains unclear to what extent a price war may ensue. Meanwhile, concerns mount these medicines will, collectively, become budget busters.
Of course, there is another way to view the issue, which is that the cost of treating patients who may otherwise need countless physician visits, hospital care and a liver transplant can run higher....