Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
Countering the Most Expensive Drugs in America
In November of last year, actress Pamela Anderson announced that she was cured of Hepatitis-C (HCV) by following an FDA-approved medication regimen. According to People Magazine, she had lived with the disease for 20 years and had been told she only had another 10 years left to live. In response to her treatment, she posted on Instagram, “I am CURED!!!” She used a number of hashtags, including #nomorehepc #dontlosehope #itworkedforme #thereisacure and wrote, “I pray anyone living with HCV can qualify or afford treatment.”
What is HCV?
HCV is a contagious disease spread by a blood borne virus that is known to cause severe liver damage and even death. For some, HCV is a short-term illness, but for 70 to 85 percent of those infected with the virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic illness. In fact, more patients in the U.S. require liver transplants due to HCV than any other disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic HCV. Chronic HCV can result in long-term health problems, and an estimated one in five people die from health complications caused by the virus each year.
The Highest Death Rate Among Infectious Diseases
A CDC press release on May 4, 2016, stated that HCV kills more Americans than any other infectious disease, including AIDS or HIV. According to a new multi-area study, this staggering statistic is partly due to the fact that 75 percent of those infected with HCV do not display any outward signs of the illness, which places them at serious risk for liver disease, cancer, and death. The CDC recommends every adult in the U.S. be tested for HCV in order to increase awareness and help ensure those who are infected receive the help they need.
There is a Cure
Fortunately, there is a cure for HCV. Unlike some of the medications from the past, there are new, highly effective treatments that can cure the vast majority of HCV infections in three to six months. The most well-known of these treatments are Harvoni and Sovaldi. Others include Olysio, Viekira Pak, Daklinza, Rebetol and Pegintron. Many of these treatments consist of daily pills that are both non-toxic and boast at least a 90 percent cure rate—a great improvement over the 50 percent cure rate of older, slow-acting and toxic drugs.
Lack of Accessibility- One of the Most Expensive Drugs in America
Unfortunately, while these treatments are available, the cost can be extremely high. An article titled “ This is one of the most expensive drugs in America”, which was published on www.marketwatch. com on April 14, 2016, stated that five of the most expensive drugs in America today are for HCV, with Harvoni and Sovaldi taking the top two spots. Solvadi, can cost upwards of $84,000 for an eighty-four day regimen, whereas Harvoni can cost $94,500 or more. Even with discounts, the cost of these medications is prohibitive for most patients. In the article “How to Pay for Costly HCV Drugs” by Madeline R. Vann, which was published recently on www.everydayhealth.com, private and government- funded health insurance plans balk at covering these new costly medications. According to HCV expert Thomas Boyer, MD, a professor of medicine and director of the Liver Research Institute at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine in Tucson, insurance coverage is typically based on the stage of the disease, and is only approved once the disease advances so far. The same article quotes gastroenterologist Raymond T. Chung, MD, medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co-author of an article outlining HCV treatment options that was published in 2014 in the BMJ as saying, “We have a uniquely curable condition with a tolerable, finite duration of therapy, and we have now been relegated to making decisions based on disease stage to differentiate those eligible for therapy from those who aren’t.”
Medical Travel Provides an Alternative
There is another way to get access to one of the most expensive drugs in America. In September 2014, Gilead, the manufacturer of Sovaldi and Harvoni, entered into a licensing and technology transfer agreement in which it granted several companies in India the rights to manufacture and distribute generic Sovaldi and Harvoni. Currently, the generic versions of these, and other treatments for HCV, are now available in India. Additionally, the cost of these generic medications is roughly $900 — $1,250 for the recommended eight-four day regimen, as compared to $84,000 – $94,500 for the brand name drugs in the U.S.
Health Flights Solutions, a Florida based company, has developed a program that sends patients to India and other destinations for the treatment of HCV, avoiding the price tag of what is considered one of the most expensive drugs in America. They have developed relationships with entities who receive the medications directly from the manufacturers and work with a network of hospitals to provide treatment for patients with HCV.
Huge Savings for Insurance, Self-Insured Employers and Patients
In an article published on Bloomberg’s website in June 2015, Anuja Agrawal, Health Flights Solutions’ CEO, spoke about the anticipated demand from the U.S. once the generic medications were available in early 2016. Now that the generic medications are available, Ms. Agrawal has said, “ the program has had a very successful launch.” She added that the entire cost of the program, including travel, accommodations, hospital fees, tests, doctor fees, and the medications is a fraction of the cost one would incur in the U.S., which generates a tremendous amount of savings for insurance companies, self-insured employers and self-pay patients. More importantly, the program provides a cure for those living with the risk of liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or even death because they cannot afford the medications or were denied the treatment by their insurance companies. Ultimately, medical travel provides a cost-savings alternative to insurance companies and self-insured employers to counter the high costs of the medications in the U.S.
One of Health Flights Solutions’ patients, who asked to be referred to as D.M. from Portland, Oregon, was turned down by his insurance for HCV treatment, so he contacted Health Flights Solutions. He said he was a little skeptical about what to expect, but he took a leap of faith and dove into the journey. “I want to give my sincere recommendation for anyone who is considering going out of the USA to obtain medications and services that are too expensive or not covered by insurance in our country. Trust in the guidance, save lots of money and enjoy the experience,” he said. Now, two months after starting the regimen, his tests show he is well on his way to being cured of HCV.
You can contact Health Flights Solutions at [email protected] to learn about alternative options for receiving one of most expensive drugs in America, at a lower rate.