The direct-medical costs associated with interferon-based treatment for Hepatitis C in Vietnam
Nguyen HA., Cooke GS., Day JN., Flower B., Phuong LT., Hung TM., Dung NT., Khoa DB., Hung LM., Kestelyn E., Thwaites GE., Chau NVV., Turner HC.
Background: Injectable interferon-based therapies have been used to treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection since 1991. International guidelines have now moved away from interferon-based therapy towards direct-acting antiviral (DAA) tablet regimens, because of their superior efficacy, excellent side-effect profiles, and ease of administration. Initially DAA drugs were prohibitively expensive for most healthcare systems. Access is now improving through the procurement of low-cost, generic DAAs acquired through voluntary licenses. However, HCV treatment costs vary widely, and many countries are struggling with DAA treatment scale-up. This is not helped by the limited cost data and economic evaluations from low- and middle-income countries to support HCV policy decisions. We conducted a detailed analysis of the costs of treating chronic HCV infection with interferon-based therapy in Vietnam. Understanding these costs is important for performing necessary economic evaluations of novel treatment strategies. Methods: We conducted an analysis of the direct medical costs of treating HCV infection with interferon alpha (IFN) and pegylated-interferon alpha (Peg-IFN), in combination with ribavirin, from the health sector perspective at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2017. Results: The total cost of the IFN treatment regimen was estimated to range between US$1,120 and US$1,962. The total cost of the Peg-IFN treatment regimen was between US$2,156 and US$5,887. Drug expenses were the biggest contributor to the total treatment cost (54-89%) and were much higher for the Peg-IFN regimen. Conclusions: We found that treating HCV with IFN or Peg-IFN resulted in significant direct medical costs. Of concern, we found that all patients incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs, including those receiving the maximum level of support from the national health insurance programme. This cost data highlights the potential savings and importance of increased access to generic DAAs in low- and middle-income countries and will be useful within future economic evaluations.