Congress should continue to make treatment affordability a mainstay for patients, but that cannot come at the cost of ignoring significant progress for life-threatening diseases like hepatitis C (HCV). Through innovation, we can cure HCV today. New treatments for HCV represent a revolution in medicine – the very first cure for chronic viral infection; yet treatment rates are declining and barriers to effective care worsen inequalities for those infected or at risk of contracting the virus. To take full advantage of these remedies and end this virus, lawmakers in Washington, DC should focus on policies that will improve funding for programs that increase access to testing and effective treatment for hepatitis C. – and eliminate health care inequalities in the process.
The hepatitis C virus is a devastating infection transmitted through blood or body fluids, which often causes liver disease. If left untreated, HCV can cause liver scarring, cirrhosis, and cancer. The sad fact is that HCV can go undiagnosed for years because many people with the disease have no symptoms.
When the fight against HCV began in the 1990s and 2000s, people living with the virus used interferon injections and ribavirin pills, treatments that caused side effects and often failed to cure people with the virus. virus.
Over the decades, these patient challenges have been met through groundbreaking innovations that have brought us closer to the possibility of ending the HCV epidemic. This innovation led to the FDA’s approval of first-generation direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) in 2011. At the time, this medical breakthrough was a big step forward in treatment and, in many cases, a cure. HCV. I was cured with one of these breakthrough drugs in a clinical trial in 2009. In 2013, second generation DAAs were discovered, leading to treatments with a 95% cure rate today.
DAAs illustrate how continuous innovations can change the trajectory of disease and demonstrate how forces outside the policy-making process – for example, market competition and ongoing research – can make these treatments more affordable.
Recent research shows that DAAs for HCV are more affordable and cost-effective due to the continued development and availability of improved treatments for HCV. Our medical system is predicted to save approximately $ 49 billion in HCV treatment costs over the next decade. This translates into savings of over $ 57,400 per person treated for HCV.
A disease that was once considered a death sentence is now curable, and treatment once deemed too expensive is now more widely available, especially among vulnerable communities.
But despite the progress made in developing safe, affordable and effective treatments, several obstacles remain prolonging the HCV epidemic. Today, the opioid epidemic continues to generate spikes in injecting drug use, a lack of diagnostics remains due to insufficient government funding, and we have no requirements for universal HCV testing. .
President BidenJoe Biden Harris tests negative for COVID-19 after close contact with Help Standing with Joe Manchin Holiday calling on Biden: “Merry Christmas and let’s go Brandon” MORE pledged to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030, an ambitious goal that matches a similar statement from the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, current projections show that due to the aforementioned obstacles, more than 500,000 Americans will likely still be living with the virus in 2030.
Achieving the president’s goal begins with removing political restrictions that prevent people from accessing hepatitis C treatment in state Medicaid programs, implementing and funding proven models of coordination of care and patient navigation, and the requirement for universal HCV testing and funding to do so. It’s a path that will help us end the epidemic – and close the gaps in care for communities of color disproportionately affected by the disease.
The history of HCV should give us hope for what is possible when we innovate for diseases that are difficult to treat. It’s also a half-written story, as approximately 2.4 million Americans are currently living with the disease. To take full advantage of medical innovation and end this virus, we must redouble our efforts and ensure that everyone has access to HCV testing and treatment with appropriate government funding and regulation. federal.
Michael Ninburg is the executive director of the Hepatitis Education Project (HEP).