One in Four Patients Denied Early Treatment for Hepatitis C

Access to high cost curative antiviral HCV drugs remains a challenge for patients.

Access to high cost curative antiviral HCV drugs remains a challenge for patients.

With the astronomical price tag attached to curative hepatitis C drugs, currently only the very sickest of patients are typically granted access to treatment.

The full scope of this policy recently came to light in a study by Yale School of Medicine published recently in PLOS ONE, which found approximately one in four patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) are being denied initial approval for new antiviral drugs like Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak.

Before these drugs began to hit the market in 2014, treatment generally involved interferon injections, which carry debilitating side effects, including flu-like symptoms. As Sovaldi hit the market with cure rates in excess of 90 percent, the drug came with a cost of $84,000 for a 12-week treatment regimen.

As a result, insurers enacted tight new restrictions on drug authorization that placed priority on the long-term cost to treat the disease over the short-term hit for curative drugs.

For the current study, researchers from Yale believed that most patients would be able to access the antiviral drugs, while some would face delayed approval and others would be denied coverage altogether. Researchers evaluated the records of 129 patients prescribed Harvoni between October and December 2014.

"The first key finding is that upon initial request for treatment, approximately one in four patients are denied," said co-first author Albert Do, MD. "That proportion is surprising."

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