The NHS in England has agreed to increase the budget available to fund new treatments for chronic hepatitis C to £190m, a rise from the budget of approximately £40m made available in 2014.
The announcement, accompanying a policy statement, from NHS England concerns treatment of patients with chronic disease that has led to cirrhosis and includes the following drugs: Exviera (dasabuvir) and Viekirax (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir), both marketed by AbbVie, Gilead’s Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (sofosbuvir/ledipasvir), Janssen’s Olysio (simeprevir) and Bristol Myer’s Squibb’s Daklinza (daclatasvir).
Under NHS England’s “early access” scheme, approximately 3,500 patients with cirrhosis and advanced liver disease due to hepatitis C virus infection are expected to access the treatments in 2015.
“This is a huge new investment,” says Richard Jeavons, NHS England’s director of specialised services. “That’s why we’re also running a competitive tendering process in parallel, to seek to bring down the price of these very expensive new drugs.”
Until recently, the only treatment options have been those based on pegylated interferon, which is associated with severe side effects including influenza-like symptoms and fatigue. These treatments are also limited by the need for regular monitoring, long duration of treatment and weekly injections.
Of the newer drugs, sofosbuvir and simeprevir were recommended for NHS use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in February 2015, although the usual three-month deadline for compliance with NICE’s recommendation was extended to 31 July 2015 for sofosbuvir following a request from NHS England. Harvoni has received tentative approval for NHS use from NICE, and Exviera and Viekirax are yet to be appraised.