Hepatitis C drug could be enough for 10m people

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Pfizer has come under fire for the high price of its HCV medicine The US is to buy enough of a drug from drugmaker Pfizer so as to…

Hepatitis C drug could be enough for 10m people

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Pfizer has come under fire for the high price of its HCV medicine

The US is to buy enough of a drug from drugmaker Pfizer so as to treat more than 10 million people infected with the Hepatitis C virus, according to the company.

Pfizer’s hospital unit, Hospira, will start shipping “emergency” supplies in February, the company said.

The moves will enable patients “to get access to care as quickly as possible”, said the company.

Covidien’s response to the news came under fire from patients and officials who said their health would suffer because of the price increase.

In 2015, the New York-based company raised the price from $84,000 (£65,000) to $125,000 (£98,000) per course of treatment.

This prompted the introduction of a 12-week course of treatment, instead of a 12-month course of treatment, on recommendation from the European Medicines Agency.

This new course of treatment is at a cost of about $450,000.

“Drugmakers like to claim that price increases are needed to finance research, innovation and patient care,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has led hearings on healthcare pricing issues in the US, in response to the deal.

“Those claims just don’t stand up to the facts.”

He said more than 90% of all patients receiving a drug price increase in 2017 had gotten a decrease in price.

‘Swiss Re’

There has been much soul-searching in the pharmaceutical industry about how to respond to the US’s ageing population.

Doctors and public health experts say price is a concern.

“Drug companies treat the health care market as a Swiss Re, we’re all insured. They are not,” said Harry Howis, professor of health policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In an email to the BBC, he said the move to buy doses of HCV treatment may be a good move, but not many patients have access to treatment.

“Many patients do not have health insurance, do not speak English and can only see care options as severely limited.”

He said patients would likely have to wait a long time for their scripts to be filled and would have to resort to taking medication on their own.

Ian Young, who has Hepatitis C, said the drug should not be just for rich people.

“The really greedy thing about this is that somebody needs to decide that we’re all getting free medication.

“For me, a liver transplant is not an option, I only have two months left before I’m deemed too sick to work so there is no way I could afford a liver transplant.”

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