Dara Gantly on the pressure to provide full access to powerful new treatments.
It is not often we hear the word ‘cure’ mentioned in the development
of a new class of drug, but the direct-acting antiviral (DAAs) agents
for people with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have that exact potential.
Indeed, this revolution in treatment could mean the ‘eradication’ for
the condition. The only barrier to achieving this will be the ability to
access and afford these new therapies. The ‘US$1,000 pill’ tagline has,
as you might expect, caused quite a stir among healthcare funders and
media alike, with some experts describing the costs of the drugs “as
breathtaking as their effectiveness”.
From the standard treatment for chronic HCV genotype 1 with
ribavirin, pegylated interferon and a protease inhibitor — which could
involve 18 tablets a day, last a year, have a limited response rate and
cause severe side-effects — patients with HCV are now being presented
with three months or less of oral medications that are offering a 90 to
95 per cent ‘cure’ rate, with experts talking about the eradication of
hepatitis C over the next decade.