Last week another person with chronic Hepatitis C and hepatocellular carcinoma was seen by the Palliative Care team. There was a lot of discussion of new treatments, such as tumor infusion therapy, surgery if it got smaller….. a new chemo trial? There was also much sadness, regret, stigma and grief.
The truth is that most people with Hepatitis C can be cured. This is an amazing turn of events. When I started my career in the 1980’s we didn’t know what Hep C was. We called in Non A Non B Hepatitis; because it seemed viral but was neither of the viruses we knew about. Then the cause was identified and soon treatment was in development.
With the advent of HAART for HIV/AIDS the numbers of deaths in the US from AIDS went down while the numbers from Hepatitis C went up; becoming the most common cause of cirrhosis leading to liver transplant.
There are effective treatments but in the US they can cost about $40,000 to $84,000 for the 84 days of treatment. It’s funny how the price worked out. Watch this great short documentary on Hepatitis C and people working to get the same pills for about $800 from India. Illegal but… saving lives.
I want to see fewer patients with Hepatitis C in our Palliative Care Clinic and Consult services.
In 2013, a cure was found for hepatitis C. It could save millions of lives, but its price tag of between $40,000 and $84,000 for 84 pills puts it far out of most patients’ reach. However, in India, a generic version of the drug is available for less than $1,000. Denied the affordable medication he needed, Greg Jefferys defied the US pharmaceutical company that holds the patent to set up a worldwide supply network for the generic version.