Reuters Health Information: Pricey new hepatitis C drugs could yield economic benefits
Pricey new hepatitis C drugs could yield economic benefits
Last Updated: 2015-05-18
By Megan Brooks
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The new higher-priced hepatitis
C drugs that hit the market recently could generate huge cost
savings in terms of worker productivity for societies that don't
shy away from them, according to an economic analysis presented
May 17 at Digestive Disease Week 2015.
The all-oral combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir
(Harvoni, Gilead Sciences) is significantly more expensive than
the older standbys (ribavirin and interferon). But they have
proven safer and more effective in clinical trials, and the new
analysis shows that that could generate savings in the billions
annually in the United States and five European countries.
More specifically, "investing in new (hepatitis C) therapies
could result in annual savings of more than $3.2 billion in the
United States and five European countries," lead investigator
Dr. Zobair Younossi, chairman of the department of medicine at
Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia, said
during a conference media briefing.
"From a clinical standpoint, we've long known about the
devastating health impacts that chronic hepatitis C has on a
patient," Dr. Younossi, who has been a consultant to Gilead,
added in a conference statement.
"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," he explained.
The research team analyzed self-reported data on workplace
productivity from more than 1,900 patients with genotype 1
chronic hepatitis C who received the ledipasvir/sofosbuvir
combination in clinical trials conducted in the U.S. and five
European countries. The medication, which was approved in the US
in 2014, has a cure rate of between 94% and 99% with minimal
side effects. Gilead Sciences provided funding for the economic
The higher cure rate and lessened side effect profile of the
combination translates into fewer days absent from work and
improved workplace productivity, Dr. Younossi and colleagues
Specifically, their economic model suggests that reduced
absenteeism and increased "presenteeism" (a measure of how
productive an individual actually is at work) would generate
roughly $2.67 billion for the United States and $556 million for
the five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and
the United Kingdom).
The model also predicted an average work productivity loss
of $4,954 per employed patient per year due to chronic hepatitis
C in the US and $1,129 per employed patient per year in the five
"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," Dr. Younossi said in the news
This analysis suggests that well-tolerated hepatitis C
treatment regimens with high cure rates improve work
productivity and "could make a substantial positive economic
contribution. This indirect economic gain must be considered
when assessing the full benefits" of treating chronic hepatitis
C, the authors conclude in their meeting abstract.
Given that these data were derived from the clinical trials,
the investigators plan further research to look at data outside
clinical trials "in order to establish and evaluate the
real-world consequences of hepatitis C cure on workplace
productivity," Dr. Younossi noted.