San Francisco Chronicle: Opinion: Affording the Cure


By Todd E. Gillenwater, San Francisco Chronicle, Letter to the Editor
August 11, 2014

Paul Markovich (“$1,000 pill is going bankrupt us,” Insight, Aug. 4) resorts to hyperbole to suggest Sovaldi, a breakthrough new treatment for hepatitis C, threatens to bankrupt our health care system. We should celebrate this breakthrough, not chide the risk-takers who developed it. He woefully misses the mark on facts. First, total costs of new hepatitis C medicines are approximately the same, if not cheaper than alternatives. Second, earlier medicines took much longer to work, were less effective and came with serious side effects, including depression, anemia and flu-like symptoms, resulting in nearly half of patients quitting their treatments.

Patients with unmanaged hepatitis C can develop cirrhosis, liver cancer or even require a liver transplant, often costing over $500,000. New hepatitis C medicines are just what patients need: simple (pill-only), effective (cure rates over 95 percent), and safe (no side effects of earlier treatments). While pricing is worthy of discussion, the debate often threatens to cloud the bigger picture: New therapies are available that can profoundly change the face of hepatitis C. While some say we can’t afford to act, these new drugs offer society an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.

Todd E. Gillenwater, Sacramento

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