The Indirect Economic Benefits of Current HCV Treatments

Although the new and more effective hepatitis C drugs are expensive, they could save the United States and 5 European countries more than $3.2 billion annually, according to estimates reported at Digestive Disease Week 2015.

Although the new and more effective hepatitis C drugs are expensive, they could save the United States and 5 European countries more than $3.2 billion annually, according to estimates reported at Digestive Disease Week 2015, which was held May 16-19 in Washington, DC.

The researchers studied patients being treated with an all-oral combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (LDV/SOF). The high cure rate (between 94% and 99%) and the lessened side effects of this drug combination means reduced absenteeism and improved workplace productivity. Previous treatments had side effects that included fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression, and lowered blood cell counts.

“Chronic hepatitis C is more than just a problem for the patient—it has a ripple effect that impacts society at large,” Zobair Younossi, MD, chairman of the department of medicine at Inova and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “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.”

Dr Younossi and his colleagues estimated that the average works’ productivity loss of chronic hepatitis C patients was $4954 per employed patient per year in the US and $1129 per employed patient per year in the 5 European countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

They studied data from more than 1900 chronic hepatitis C patients treated with LDV/SOF and found that reduced absenteeism and increased productivity due to the more effective treatment would total approximately $2.65 billion for the US and $556 million for the European countries.

“From a clinical standpoint, we’ve long known about the devastating health impacts that chronic hepatitis C has on a patient,” Dr Younossi said. “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 plans to conduct additional research to examine data outside of the clinical trial setting in order to evaluate the real-world consequences of a hepatitis C cure. However, Dr Younossi expressed relief at the fact that researchers are beginning to see the bigger picture when it comes to the impact of hepatitis C and its long-term health effects.

The indirect economic gain resulting from a hepatitis C cure “must be considered when assessing the full benefits of treating [chronic hepatitis C] (the clinical benefits, total economic benefits and patient-reported outcomes benefits),” the authors wrote in their abstract.