Worldwide Concern for the High Cost of Hepatitis C Drugs

Study finds need for updated pricing system for hepatitis C virus medications.

A recent analysis determined the cost and affordability of newly developed hepatitis C virus (HCV) medications significantly varied among countries around the globe.

Researchers from the World Health Organization performed an economic analysis of prices for a 12-week treatment therapy with sofosbuvir and ledipasvir/sofosbuvir. The analysis was adjusted for average 2015 exchange rates and purchasing power parity (PPP), including data from 30 countries that were mostly European, as well as Egypt and Mongolia.

The results of the analysis published in PLOS Medicine found that the nominal price based on exchange rates was highest in the United States -- $72,765 for 12 weeks of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir. However, after the PPP was adjusted, the prices in Central and Eastern European countries was highest at $118,754 for 12 weeks of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir.

The cost of treating the entire HCV population in each of the countries evaluated was also calculated using previous estimates of HCV burden by country. Researchers discovered that to treat HCV patients in the Netherlands using new HCV medications, it would range from 10.5% of the pharmaceutical expenditure (TPE) to 190.5% of the TPE to treat all the patients in Poland.

Limitations to the study included the accuracy of the estimated number of HCV patients and accessible price information. Researchers noted that some actual prices may be lower than the public access numbers because of confidential discounts.

Further limitations included only considering the price of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir/sofosbuvir and not additional costs such as screenings and follow ups.

The analysis showed the wide range of affordability worldwide, and the findings suggest the need for an updated pricing system.

“In order for countries to increase investment and minimize the burden of hepatitis C, governments and industry stakeholders will need to jointly develop and implement fairer pricing frameworks that deliver lower and more affordable prices,” the authors wrote.