Tags: Hepatitis C | drugs | medicare | cost

Miracle Hepatitis C Drugs Cost Medicare 15 Times More a Year

Monday, 30 Mar 2015 10:55 AM

Medicare shelled out $4.5 billion last year on miracle new medications for hepatitis C — 15 times more than it spent in 2013 on older treatments for the liver disease, The Washington Post reported.

The breakthrough drugs, which can cost at least $1,000 a day, will be paid for by taxpayers as part of Medicare's prescription drug program.

But the huge costs will eventually result in higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for the program's 39 million seniors and disabled enrollees, who usually pay a smaller share of its cost, the Post said, citing officials.

The cost of these new hepatitis C drugs to the program, known as Part D, far outstripped the $286 million bill for hepatitis C treatments in 2013, said Sean Cavanaugh, director of Medicare at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which provided the data to ProPublica after a Freedom of Information Act request.

Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a three-month course of treatment, accounted for $3 billion of the expenditures while Harvoni cost $670 million, even though the drug only came out in October. A third drug, Olysio, often taken in conjunction with Sovaldi, cost $821 million, the Post reported.

Medicare officials say this year's payments are on track to equal or even surpass last year's, Cavanaugh said, adding, "we're all waiting to see when it plateaus or when it possibly goes back down. When will that pent-up demand be sated?"

The new hepatitis C drugs have a higher cure rate, 90 percent or higher, than previous treatments, and have less harmful side effects, according to the newspaper.

"Curing hepatitis C will likely go on to prevent liver cancer, go on to prevent patients needing liver transplantation, go on to save healthcare dollars down the road," said Adam Peyton, a liver specialist at the University of Miami Health System in Florida.

"It's upsetting that there's been so much negative publicity for such a positive breakthrough in medicine."

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders told the Post that the success of Sovaldi is a double-edged sword, because the high cost of the drug can negatively affect the health of thousands of others in the Medicare program.

"The cost of Sovaldi is not only an economic issue in terms of the impact of the cost of this drug on the VA, on Medicaid, on Medicare, it is a moral issue, and that is how many people in this country will suffer, how many will die very painful deaths because of the excessive costs of this particular product," Sanders said.

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Medicare shelled out $4.5 billion last year on miracle new medications for hepatitis C - 15 times more than it spent in 2013 on older treatments for the liver disease, The Washington Post reported.
Hepatitis C, drugs, medicare, cost
421
2015-55-30
Monday, 30 Mar 2015 10:55 AM
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