For a long time, Hepatitis C has been a tricky disease to treat. A viral infection that, in 85% of cases, transitions into a chronic condition associated with long-term health consequences, there was no vaccine nor specific antiviral therapy to cure HCV infection. The treatment plan included a full year of chemotherapy, was fraught with side effects, and only had a 50% success rate.
This all changed three years ago, when Gilead Sciences developed an effective (95%!) hepatitis C cure, Sovaldi. Sovaldi is given in pill form, but the catch? It's wildly expensive. The 12-week treatment course will cost a total of $84,000, as pills are priced at $1000 each.
Despite the expensive nature of treatment, San Francisco has announced an initiative to eliminate hepatitis C. The first in the country, End Hep C SF will work to identifying everyone infected with HCV and getting them through the 12-week regimen. The initiative will likely have a hard time convincing insurers to pay for it all, but healthcare has learned that early prevention is the key to cost-saving for later on. Eliminating HCV will prevent future transmission of the disease, reducing the amount needed to spend in the future.
Of interest, End Hep C SF will also be working to provide treatment to at-risk communities. One clinic, Healthright 360, serves members of these at-risk communities and is preparing to provide the 84-day hepatitis C treatment to those that enter 90-day treatment programs.
Will San Francisco succeed in its ambitious task? It certainly would be a good example for the rest of the country, and perhaps lead to the eradication of another virus.
SF Chronicle News Article:
On Sovaldi and other HCV drugs by Gilead:
Hepatitis C Virus FAQ:
-- Sharon Kam