$1,000 Pills and the Future of Global Medicine

"In spite of these undoubtedly expensive costs, such an outrageous and unaffordable cost of treatment in the midst of a growing epidemic should not be allowed."

Hepatitis C, a liver-damaging virus, is best known as a “shadow epidemic” suspected of causing precipitous rise in rates of liver cancer, a disease increasing faster than any other cancer in the United States. The disease affects more than four million Americans and is disproportionately found among society’s marginalized populations, including prison inmates and injection drug users. An estimated 130 to 150 million people are infected worldwide.

Though these statistics and stories are worthy of alarm, costs of treating this epidemic are far from urgent. In April 2014, the World Health Organization approved two new oral drugs that fight hepatitis C, but their costs are far from affordable. Gilead Science’s 12-week course of the hepatitis C drug Solvadi costs $84,000, which translates to $1,000 per pill. Johnson & Johnson’s drug Olysio, often prescribed with Solvadi, costs $66,360 for the 12-week regimen.

Pharmaceutical companies oftentimes justify these high costs by simply pointing to the length of time and amount of money that is invested in the research and development process. According to the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, research and development for just one medicine takes 10 to 15 years and more than $1 billion.


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