Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hepatitis C Virus: An Introduction

For those of you who know my blog, or have visited before, you know that this type of article is unusual for me. I don't write about serious topics. Ever. But today I was reminded of a situation that has always weighted heavily on my mind: the availability of medical aid.

In the U.S., we enjoy the many medical advances. However, these advances sometimes--usually--come with a hefty price tag. Anyone who has had a surgery or gone without insurance knows that medical prices are very high, but at least we have access to it.

I, like many people on Facebook, follow the Humans of New York page. I love seeing the inspiring stories of those overcoming poor circumstances or the heartwarming stories of every day life. Today my heartstrings were pulled violently at the picture of a woman suffering from Hepatitis C Virus. She had escaped with her child from an abusive relationship and is struggling with her disease and situation. As I read through the comments I saw how many people wanted to help and the lack of information these people had about this disease and its treatments.

Last semester I learned of the release of Hepatitis C drugs that cured the disease. Curing a chronic viral disease after contraction is nearly unheard of, so of course I was excited and intrigued. As I researched the topic, I was surprised and infuriated at the price. All of these drugs were over $80,000 per treatment, about $1,000 per pill. I couldn't understand how. How could you develop a life saving drug and charge so much? Is it really that expensive to produce? Is this price ethical?

That was how I found my research topic for the semester. I went on to write two articles on the topic of HCV. One is strictly on the virus itself (background, characteristics, genetics, disease, etc), while the other an analytical report on the ethics of the prices for the three main HCV drugs (Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak).

In my experience, information about this disease and the treatment options available is spread out and hard to dig up. I feel that accessibility to this information and public awareness is the key to fighting HCV and also pharmaceutical price gouging. Both of my articles in their entirety will be posted on my blog, and I will be looking into posting them on other forums as well. I hope that through my research I can help others.

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