- In a computer simulation, researchers found that treating hepatitis C (HCV) early adds one more year of healthy life for less than $50,000. Results of the study were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
- This finding directly contrasts with most payers' policies, which require that an HCV-infected patient have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for one of the new treatments from Gilead, AbbVie, or Bristol-Myers Squibb.
- About 20% of HCV infections cause liver damage. In turn, this can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Three million people in the U.S. are HCV-infected.
Last week, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) issued a statement excoriating payers for forcing patients to wait until advanced disease stages before they are eligible for treatment. Additionally, Department of Health and Human Services' officials sent letters to state Medicaid directors explicitly telling them that denying treatment to any patient with hepatitis C is unacceptable.
As part of their declaration, the AASLD made it clear there is no medical evidence to justify delaying treatment. This result further bolsters that claim. In the computer simulated model, the researchers used 1,000 imaginary patients from different backgrounds, of different ages, and with varying degrees of liver damage.
The simulation found upfront treatment with Gilead's Harvoni added one more year of healthy life for less than $50,000--a cost-effective result. At the same time, the researchers did concede that upfront treatment of half of all HCV-infected individuals in the U.S. would cost $53 billion.