Curing Hepatitis C Could Boost Overall Economy

Study finds benefits from reduced absenteeism and improved workplace productivity.

Study finds benefits from reduced absenteeism and improved workplace productivity.

The benefits of curing hepatitis C could not only save millions of lives, but also could bolster economies worldwide, according to the results of a recent study.

The study, presented at Digestive Disease Week 2015, notes that while highly effective oral hepatitis C virus (HCV) medications may cost in excess of $84,000 for a 12-week regiment, these drugs could produce savings of approximately $3.2 billion annually in the United States and 5 European countries. The breakthrough combination therapy of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (LDV/SOF) was found to decrease absenteeism while enhancing workplace productivity, which can reap enormous benefits, according to an economic model developed by researchers at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus, VA.

"From a clinical standpoint, we've long known about the devastating health impacts that chronic hepatitis C has on a patient," said lead researcher Zobair Younossi, MD, in a press release. "But given the significant side-effects previously associated with treating the disease, notably fatigue and neuropsychiatric side effects, we were interested in looking at the impact of new treatments on patients' ability to work, and in a broader sense, how this effects employers and overall economies."

The study included data from more than 1900 chronic HCV patients treated with LDV/SOF, which carries cure rates between 94 and 99% with limited side effects. The study formulated reported absenteeism, and a measure of how productive patients actually are during work.

The researchers developed an economic model that estimates work productivity gains associated with curing genotype-1 chronic HCV patients with LDV/SOF. The results suggest that reduced absenteeism and increased productivity would total approximately $2.67 billion for the United States and $556 million in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The researchers noted that while preliminary results are encouraging, further analysis of data outside of the clinical trial setting is needed in order to determine the real world consequences of curing HCV on work productivity and associated economic gains.

"Chronic hepatitis C is more than just a problem for the patient -- it has a ripple effect that impacts society at large,” Dr. Younossi said. “While previous reports have found the cost of these drugs as certainly significant, the long term benefits of curing patients with hepatitis C makes this a worthwhile investment. We must begin to look at chronic diseases, such as hepatitis C, from every angle, which should inspire progress in developing more tolerable and effective cures.”