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Harvoni could save US, Europe $3.2 billion

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The higher cure rate of treating hepatitis C patients with a combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) led to substantially better work productivity, according to a new study. In fact, improved work productivity and lack of absenteeism could save the United States and 5 European countries more than $3.2 billion a year.

While the high cost of Gilead Science’s Harvoni-as well as other hepatitis C drugs-has received criticism from patients, managed care organizations, lawmakers and others, there is some positive news about the drug.

The higher cure rate of treating hepatitis C patients with a combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) led to substantially better work productivity, according to a new study. In fact, improved work productivity and lack of absenteeism could save the United States and 5 European countries more than $3.2 billion a year.

"While previous reports have found the cost of these drugs as certainly significant, the long-term benefits of curing patients with hepatitis C makes this a worthwhile investment,” wrote lead author Zobair Younossi, chairman of the department of medicine at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus.

Related:Hep C patient sues Blue Cross for denying Harvoni coverage

The new findings were presented at Digestive Disease Week 2015, held May 17-19 in Washington D.C. The study was funded through a grant provided by Gilead.

Younossi and his colleagues looked at survey responses from more than 1,900 hepatitis C patients treated with Gilead's combination treatment Harvoni in a clinical trial to see how the treatment affected patients’ ability to work. The team then compared the responses to data on older treatments for hepatitis C, such as interferon and ribavirin, which come with side effects such as fatigue, depression and lowered blood cell counts, according to FiercePharma.

Related: States blame hep C cases for increased opioid abuse

Harvoni showed a cure rate of between 94% and 99% with minimal side effects, the researchers found. Patients treated with Harvoni showed up to work more often and were more productive. As a result, the US economy could potentially benefit $2.6 billion a year and 5 leading European countries could save $556 million a year, Medical News Today reported.

Conversely, more traditional treatments such as interferon and ribavirin produce a variety of side effects such as fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression and lowered blood cell counts, according to the researchers.

Read next: Hep C, cancer drugs make up bigger percentage of Rx costs

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