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The relatively new drug for Hepatitis C, Sovaldi, has caused a rather large controversy about the appropriate price for medication. This NY Times article is one example of the controversy, citing the cost at $1,000 a pill, and $84,000 for a complete treatment.

I'm not asking about what price is appropriate, this is a much more complicated debate and entirely off-topic here. But I am interested in putting the price in context, and the official statement from Gilead paints a rather different picture than most of the articles in the press I read. They state in their policy position:

Sovaldi was priced such that the total regimen cost is comparable to the previous standard of care regimen for genotype 1 patients with hepatitis C.

Is that statement accurate? Is the cost for a complete treatment with Sovaldi comparable to the cost of the existing treatments for Hepatitis C?

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According to the Dartmouth Medical School:

With the cost per liver transplantation in the range of $280,000 for one year, liver transplantation for hepatitis C alone reaches a cost of nearly $300 million per year.

Moreover, the average lifetime cost for hepatitis C, in the absence of liver transplant, has been estimated to be about $100,000 for individual patients.

According to the NIH (which does not mention liver transplants specifically):

The lifetime cost of an individual infected with HCV in 2011 was estimated at $64,490. However, this cost is significantly higher among individuals with a longer life expectancy.

The big difference seems to be that Sovaldi is a cure and has the entire cost occur within a treatment period of 12 or 24 weeks, whereas existing treatments consisted of "managing" the disease and spread out the cost over years or decades.

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