NHS: £190m set aside for Hepatitis C

The budget for HCV therapies will be increased from last year’s £40 million to £190 million says NHSE (NHS England). This will provide stop-gap access to drugs such as AbbVie’s on Viekirax and Exviera to around 3,500 patients with cirrhosis.

NHSE’s Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG) is recommending that Viekirax/Exviera should be offered to all patients in England with genotype 1a and 1b infection and compensated cirrhosis.

The decision was made around a year after NHSE provided £18.7 million to fund Gilead Sciences’ rival HCV therapy Sovaldi, for around 500 HCV patients at significant risk of death from infection caused by liver failure.

AbbVie released a statement noting that more than 200,000 people in the UK are chronically infected with HCV, but only an estimated 3 per cent are treated each year, despite the arrival of treatments that can eliminate the virus.

Before the availability of effective oral therapies such as Viekirax/Exviera, Sovaldi and Gilead’s dual combination Harvoni. The only treatments available were based on injections of pegylated interferon which caused severe side effects such as flu-like symptoms and appeared to be less effective at clearing the virus.

In January the EMA approved the therapy for wider use in HCV, but it has still not been given the go-ahead by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The funding block provided access to Sovaldi ahead of NICE guidance allowed NHSE to push the budget impact of including the almost £35,000-per-course drug into the next financial reporting period.
Charles Gore, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust “Finally, the sickest HCV patients will have a chance to access these highly efficacious, curative therapies that are generally well tolerated.”


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