The novel development of safer, more effective oral medications to address hepatitis C has led to breakthrough therapies that cost patients tens of thousands of dollars for a 12-week regimen, however, investing in these therapies could also save over $3.2 billion each year in the United States and five European countries. These estimates come from a recent study (abstract 228) published at the Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2015, indicating that the long-term savings from these HCV therapies could have a major impact on the economy.
Higher cure rates and fewer side-effects related to the use of an all-oral combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (LDV/SOF) reduces absenteeism and significantly improves workplace productivity, according to the study.
“From a clinical standpoint, we’ve long known about the devastating health impacts that chronic hepatitis C has on a patient. But given the significant side-effects previously associated with treating the disease, notably fatigue and neuropsychiatric side effects, we were interested in looking at the impact of new treatments on patients’ ability to work, and in a broader sense, how this effects employers and overall economies,” noted Zobair Younossi, lead researcher of the study.
Data from over 1,900 chronic hepatitis C patients that received LDV/SOF treatment was collected and reviewed, revealing a cure rate of 94 to 99 percent with insignificant side effects. Traditional treatments such as the use of interferon and ribavirin proved to be less effective and resulted in more side effects like fatigue, flu-like symptoms, lowered blood cell counts and depression.
Estimates say that this work productivity gain and reduced absenteeism would represent about $2.67 billion for the U.S. and $556 million for the EU (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom).
“Chronic hepatitis C is more than just a problem for the patient — it has a ripple effect that impacts society at large. While previous reports have found the cost of these drugs as certainly significant, the long term benefits of curing patients with hepatitis C makes this a worthwhile investment. We must begin to look at chronic diseases, such as hepatitis C, from every angle, which should inspire progress in developing more tolerable and effective cures,” concluded Younossi.
The study, entitled “The Impact of Sustained Viral Eradication on the Work Productivity of Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C (CHC) from the Five Western European Countries and the United States,” was presented on Sunday, May 17 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The researchers hope that these new insights might add a new dimension to the ongoing debate about the cost and viability of new HCV therapies.