What We Talk About When We Talk About Hepatitis C

Since 2007, more people have died every year from hepatitis C than from HIV. Fortunately, the latest hepatitis C medications can cure nearly everyone in a relatively quick, easy fashion. So, if it is so easy to cure hepatitis C, why haven't we?

Ostensibly, it is because of the cost. At $1125 a pill for Gilead Sciences' drug Harvoni, a 12-week course of hepatitis C treatment would amount to $94,500. Trying to manage these costs, many state Medicaid programs and insurance companies have severely restricted access to treatment. You save money if you deny treatment to people, and dead people cost nothing.

This means that although we can cure hepatitis C, we aren't. Under many insurance plans, patients have to prove that they have cirrhosis. In short, treatment is approved when liver damage has progressed to its worst stage. It is like refusing to pay for diabetes drugs until the patient is blind or minus a few toes.

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