Two Current Fronts of the American Health Care Wars: Hepatitis C and Cancer

The Pharmaceutical Industry, Health Insurance and Recurrent Questions of Extortion, Murder and Evil

Asking patients to delay treatment for hepatitis C is like asking patients to delay treatment for diabetes or cancer.

"Waiting for cirrhosis to happen to treat HCV is like waiting for cancer to metastasize or for diabetes to cause complications before treating it. In reality, all cause mortality and per patient per year health care costs are tripled for patients with hepatitis C, whether they have cirrhosis or not."

-- Dr. Douglas Dieterich, leading hepatitis C and liver diseases researcher and specialist at the Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City

My friend John is a retired college professor who lives on a budget. He has hepatitis C, which he acquired from a blood transfusion before the development of blood testing and screening for hep C. He does have health insurance, but like most of those seeking treatment for this condition, he has been told that he must become demonstrably sicker to qualify for treatment coverage. Meanwhile, he must not drink any alcohol and remain vigilant for symptoms, especially fatigue. Since the progression of hepatitis C to cirrhosis of the liver and cancer of the liver can take decades, and John has already had this disease for decades, he is understandably concerned. In fact, he may die sooner from other causes, his untreated hepatitis C playing an indeterminate role. There is, however, an alternative for John. If he had the $100,000+ in cash to pay for the treatment now, he could be fully and safely cured in 8-12 weeks. John does not identify himself as a socialist, and he is willing to pay what he can for treatment, but the cost in this case is overwhelming.


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