| March 16
March 16 (Reuters Health) - New hepatitis C drugs that
shorten treatment times are largely cost-effective despite their
hefty U.S. price tags, according to two new analyses.
The widespread use of a combination of drugs that include
Gilead Sciences Inc's Sovaldi, known generically as
sofosbuvir, will nonetheless be a significant cost for the U.S.
healthcare system, researchers wrote.
Sovaldi's initial $84,000 price drew widespread criticism
last year, and insurers have since pressed Gilead and rival
AbbVie Inc to offer steep discounts on the treatments.
One analysis published on Monday in the Annals of Internal
Medicine found treatment involving Sovaldi cost-effective for
people with the most common type of hepatitis C, known as
genotype 1, compared with older treatments.
It was funded by CVS Health, one of the largest U.S.
pharmacy benefits managers, and was based on Gilead's 2014
pricing, before it began to offer greater discounts.
The new drugs cost $12,825 for every healthy year of life
patients gained over older treatments, the researchers said.
That was below the usual cutoff of $50,000 per healthy year of
life gained for cost-effectiveness.
Senior author Dr. Niteesh Choudhry cautioned that the
analysis looks at benefits over the course of a person's life,
while the cost of treatment is paid upfront.
"We look over the long term and it takes a long time for
these dollars to be incorporated," said Choudhry, of Brigham and
Women's Hospital in Boston.
A second analysis published in the same journal found that
treating all eligible U.S. hepatitis C patients over the next
five years, at 2014 prices, would cost an additional $65 billion
more than older and less-effective treatments.
Based on reduced 2015 prices, the researchers said, the
costs would total an additional $20 billion over the next five
Treating the patients with the new drugs would also prevent
about $16 billion in healthcare spending in the future, the
researchers said. The study was funded by the National
Institutes of Health.
"These drugs are good value for the money," said lead author
Jagpreet Chhatwal, from the University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center in Houston.
Gilead offers a combination drug known as Harvoni, which
combines Sovaldi and the company's ledipasvir. AbbVie's Viekira
Pak, which was approved in the United States in late 2014, was
not evaluated in either of the analyses.
(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman; Editing by Dan Grebler)