Worldwide treatment of hepatitis C could be within sight at the right cost

Lowering the cost of hepatitis C drugs is possible and it is key to achieving global access to treatment, according to new research.

There are an estimated 185 million people infected with the hepatitis C virus worldwide and 160,000 in Britain. Currently there is no vaccine and, if left untreated, infection can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, causing up to 500,000 related deaths globally per year. Hepatitis C is particularly problematic in low to middle income countries; for example 12 million people are infected in Egypt.

A new and effective generation of direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) has been developed to treat hepatitis C (see sidebar). However, at present these drugs are highly expensive. A 12-week course of the new drug sofosbuvir in the US is priced at as much as $84,000 per person and £55,440 in the UK. The NHS has recently delayed introduction of sofosbuvir due to its high price.

Reference: van de Ven, N. et al. ‘Minimum target prices for production of direct acting antivirals and associated diagnostics to combat Hepatitis C Virus.’ Hepatology (2014) DOI: 10.1002/hep.27641

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