Wednesday, September 23, 2015

DELAYED POST: CGH Journal Club Recap: Hepatitis C Drug Affordability

The Global Health on Grounds committee had our first journal club meeting this
past week. An excerpt from the article from the Lancet that was discussed:
“The new generation of highly effective medicines to treat hepatitis C offers new hope
for those affected, but the high prices of these drugs block countries from integrating
them into their treatment programmes.”

A link to the article can be found here:

This article prompted a lively discussion on equitable access to healthcare, what
the fair payoff for research and development for pharmaceutical companies is, the role of
insurance companies in funding this treatment, and government regulation of
pharmaceutical companies.

The group ended up being pretty divided. Some argued that pharmaceutical
companies need to have high economic incentives to invest in research and development,
otherwise life saving drugs would never be made in the first place. While currently many
people cannot afford the drug, if it wasn’t profitable then no drug would have been
developed in the first place and no one would have access to it. In addition, the price of
the drug not only makes up for the cost of developing that one drug, but the many drugs
before it that were ultimately not successful.  Hepatitis C, when left untreated can lead to
liver cancer and ultimately rack up extremely high medical costs in the future. Because of
the efficacy of the drug and its ability to prevent higher medical costs in the future, some
people in the group argued that the price, ($85,000-$110,000 in the US and -$900 in
some developing countries) was actually fair.

On the other hand, many believed that people should have equitable access to a
life saving drug and one cannot quantify the cost of a human life.  In addition, a lot of
research funding that ultimately leads to the development of pharmaceutical drugs is
funded by governmental agencies such as the NIH. Pharmaceutical companies also spend
more money on marketing their products than they do on research and development.
While this is necessary to get their product out, in the special case of the Hepatitis C
drug, the companies do not need to market the drug due to its high efficacy and need.
Therefore, there should be more regulation on how these pharmaceutical companies to
lower the price.

Whether you agree, disagree, or feel we missed out on some points that are
essential to the discussion, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email with opinions on this past book club or topics and articles you
would like us to feature next! Our next meeting will be this Thursday March 19th, 7pm at
the Center for Global Health and we will be discussing Global Health and Climate
change. As always, we will provide dinner and a lively discussion!

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