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NYT Columnist: Insurance Industry “Looking at the Costs of Sovaldi in the Wrong Way”

August 4, 2014
Margot Sanger-Katz’s article on a new drug that treats hepatitis C notes that despite the attention the cost has received to date, those attacking the drug are “looking at the costs of Sovaldi in the wrong way.”

Sanger-Katz acknowledges that these one-time treatments can be a ‘shock to the system,’ but notes the value far outweighs the expense since it cures the disease in the majority of patients, preventing further costly treatments and care. Sanger-Katz points out that early studies show that the drug, despite the attacks from the insurance industry, may save the health care system money over the long run.

She writes:

  • Data from the C.D.C. suggest that more than 60 percent of people with hepatitis C will end up with chronic liver disease — and as many as 20 percent will end up with cirrhosis. Treating those diseases is costly. A liver transplant, the most expensive option for the small group of patients with end-stage disease, costs nearly $600,000.

  • Because the drug cures around 90 percent of patients who take it, public health researchers believe it has the potential to reduce the spread of the disease to others, eliminating the future costs of treating their disease and any complications.

The challenge, she writes, is not in the overall cost of the drug, but in how it is paid for, highlighting the reimbursement challenges facing the health care system today. “Think about AIDS treatment as paying a mortgage. Sovaldi is like buying a house with cash,” writes Sanger-Katz.

Read the full article here.