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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Costs of Hepatitis C

The need for increased access to clean needles throughout the Midwest and Appalachian states is dire, as the rate of infectious disease transmission skyrockets. In recent months, politicians have been forced to change their stance on needle exchanges as a result of a Hepatitis C and HIV outbreaks. The cause, intravenous use of prescription opioids and heroin.

Hepatitis C, while terrible, can be treated and even cured in some cases. However, the cost of treatment is daunting and in the places hardest hit, Medicaid programs simply do not have the resources to treat even a fraction of the infected, The New York Times reports. The new hepatitis C drugs cost at least $84,000 for a 12-week course.

The price is so high that both Medicaid programs, and some private insurers, claim that treating the infected population is depleting their resources, according to the article. Left untreated, the virus can wreak havoc on the human body, causing liver damage and cancer - which can be fatal.

The disease spreads so easily because, according to CDC estimates, only one in 10 cases of hepatitis C are reported, the article reports. A number of infected people show no symptoms and continue to share their needles, infecting those around them.

“It’s definitely the tip of a much larger iceberg,” said John Ward, Director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC. 

From 2007 to 2012, acute hepatitis C cases more than tripled among young people in:
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
In the United States, the CDC estimates that more than three million people have hepatitis C. In 2013 alone, the disease claimed more than 15,000 lives.

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