Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Hepatitis C and the NHS Bill

Viral hepatitis is one of the leading killers across the globe, with a death toll that matches Aids or tuberculosis, research in the Lancet suggests. The report estimates that hepatitis infections and their complications led to 1.45m deaths in 2013 - despite the existence of vaccines and treatments.
"We have tools at our disposal to treat this disease - we have vaccines to treat hepatitis A and B and we have new treatments for C. However the price of new medicines is beyond the reach of any country - rich or poor." Dr Graham Cooke of Imperial College London explained.


NHS England made a decision to limit, or "ration", a new cure for hepatitis C.
The new range of pills, which has completely changed the way hepatitis C is treated, is thought to be 95% effective at curing the disease within eight weeks.
Before this, it could only be cured with a year of injections, often with damaging side-effects likened to those of chemotherapy.
The first of these new drugs, Sovaldi - manufactured by Gilead - has a list price of £34,983 for a 12-week course, although a confidential deal with NHS England will have reduced the final cost to the health service.
In 2015, the health watchdog NICE ruled it was cost-effective compared with older medicines.
NHS England set aside an extra £200m a year to pay for Sovaldi and other new hepatitis C treatments.
But in 2016, faced with the high price of the new pills, it decided to limit the drug to 10,000 people a year, rising to 15,000 by 2021.  Some patients are buying a cheaper copy of the drug from India, and it is estimated as many as 1,000 other patients have taken.
An estimated 215,000 people in the UK are infected with hepatitis C, a virus that can cause liver damage and cancer.
Dr Ashley Brown, from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: It is particularly frustrating, I have patients who I know are eligible for treatment, the treatment has been approved by NICE but I can't treat them due to budgetary restrictions. "We all accept the fact the NHS pot is limited, but if that is the case, that pot of money should pay for treatment for as many patients as possible.

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