Today, the California Healthcare Institute released a report on the public health impact of Hepatitis C and the potential of groundbreaking new treatments to save tens of thousands of lives over the coming decades.
Innovation in Hepatitis C Treatment: New Opportunities for Action explores the incredible progress that has been made in Hepatitis C treatment in the decades since the Hepatitis C virus was identified as the cause of the disease in 1989. Early treatments had low cure rates (about 47% of patients), a burdensome regimen of 48 weeks, and caused severe side effects including anemia (~30%), fever (~45%), and major depression (~25%).
Interferon-free regimens coming to market today have very few side effects, with no anemia expected. They also have high cure rates (95+%) and many patients require only 12 weeks of treatment. What effect might this breakthrough be for patients? In collaboration with the Centers for Disease Analysis (CDA), the report employs key data that points to a resounding positive impact on public health, suggesting that the new medicines may prevent at least 30,000 Hep C-related deaths and 16,000 cases of liver cancer over the next 15 years.
Breakthrough treatments can be transformative for patients, but they require significant investment and risk on the part of drug developers. Only 1 in 10 potential medicines that are tested in clinical trials go on to become an approved treatment, and of those approved treatments, only 2 in 10 percent ever produce enough revenue to exceed their R&D costs. Revenues from successful treatments are used to fund the numerous – and expensive – failures inherent in the drug development process.
Biotechnology has the potential to unlock new treatments for other debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, HIV, MRSA, and others. Medical innovation, and the patients who rely on it, will best be served if today’s debates about the costs of medicines also take a close look at the value of new treatments.