Patients with hepatitis C infection are faced with financial burden and pain as they await health insurance plans to cover a life-saving cure. Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes the liver to become swollen and inflamed and can trigger an array of health complications for those who develop the chronic disease.
At nearly a $90,000 cost for a full treatment, a drug called Harvoni helps cure patients with the virus in just 12 weeks without the need for injections like other therapies. However, newly diagnosed patients face a painful journey as they await commercial insurance and other state and federal health plans to cover the treatment.
Acute Hepatitis C vs. Chronic Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that is commonly transmitted through unprotected sex as a sexually transmitted disease or through sharing needles for drugs and unscreened blood transfusions. Once it enters the body, the acute stage of the virus can take up to 6 months to manifest.
Patients typically show symptoms like painful joint inflammation, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin. These signs usually manifest one to three months after initial exposure to the hepatitis C virus. However, nearly 15 to 25% of people who become infected with the virus will only develop the acute variant of the virus that clears from the system without ever needing treatment.
In contrast, chronic hepatitis C develops in nearly 75 to 85% of patients who are exposed to the virus, and requires expensive treatments to prevent serious liver damage. In the initial stages of chronic hepatitis C, patients experience the acute symptoms of virus, along with gallbladder infections, insulin resistance that causes type-2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and changes in mood.
In the advanced stages of hepatitis C infections, patients develop a liver condition called cirrhosis that causes an array of health complications. Cirrhosis is a disease that deteriorates the liver by forming scar tissue around the organ and blocking blood flow throughout. If left untreated, cirrhosis makes the body susceptible to serious infection, including kidney failure that causes death. In the advanced stages of the hepatitis Infections, the body weakens and causes painful gastrointestinal bleeding and abdominal swelling.
For patients with chronic hepatitis C infections, treating the virus with antivirals can help reduce the progression of cirrhosis and other health complications. However, one of the biggest obstacles is figuring out how to pay for lifesaving drugs.
Access to Hepatitis C Treatments
Harvoni is among one of the newest antiviral drug treatments that helps cure hepatitis C patients over a 12-week period. With a success rate of 94 to 99% but a $90,000 price tag, the maker of Harvoni, Gilead Sciences, is a prime example of drug overpricing.
Harvoni Bottle and Pill
Even with commercial, state, and federal health plans, patients must figure out how to cover potential copays of $30,000 for a 30-day supply of the antiviral drug treatment. In some states like Massachusetts, insurance companies require patients to undergo liver screenings to assess damage and determine if it is substantial enough to provide coverage for hepatitis C treatments like Harvoni.
The good news for the estimated 3.5 million patients with chronic hepatitis C is that states like New York have filed lawsuits against insurance companies refusing coverage for drugs like Harvoni. The results of that lawsuit have forced insurance companies in New York to change their criteria for covering costly hepatitis C treatments, and other states are likely to follow the same course. Additionally, we here at HelpRx offer a free discount on Harvoni for up to 75% off the retail cost of the drug. Claim this discount by visiting our Harvoni Drug Coupon Page.