As I understand it the body has natural interferon and you add extra to amp up the immune system further, forming extra killer t-cells to kill the virus. The co-drug, ribivirin, works as an adjuvant (increases the activity of the interferon), but has no effect on it's own. You need them both.
I once looked the 2 drugs up online and when I added them up for 48 weeks of treatment, it came to $27,000 total, but can't recall the interferon figure, maybe it was $150 per shot. Then add in the neccessary labwork & dr's visits.
You could buy online but cannot treat unless under a doctor's care; too dangerous. Like all chemo treatments, the drugs kill good cells along with the bad and you need regular labwork to see what the drugs are doing to be safe.
I am participating in a study so the drugs are free, but my insurance will cover them with a copay. I believe that one of the manufacturers, Schering Plough, supports a program of drug distribution for people who can prove they are under- or non-insured. Look at their website for more info.
Interferon is a protein that your body is constantly making, and your body makes even more interferon when it tries to fight off an infection, such as a virus. You've experienced this if you've ever had the flu. When you have the flu, your body makes extra interferon to defeat the virus that's causing the illness.
For some infections, such as hepatitis C, patients can inject more interferon into their bodies to help fight the virus. While the interferon that's in a PEGASYS injection may be slightly different from the kind your body makes, it can help the body fight the virus in three ways:
It helps healthy cells defend themselves against the virus.
It helps the immune system stop the virus from multiplying.
It helps the body get rid of infected cells (while continuing to prevent healthy cells from being infected).
Pegasys (Peginterferon alfa-2a (injection) is distributed by Roche Pharmaceuticals and is taken with COPEGUS (ribavirin pills). It is a medicine that works by slowing down the growth of the virus. COPEGUS should be taken with PEGASYS to fight the virus.
Schering-Plough's PEGINTRON (peginterferon alfa-2b) Powder for Injection and INTRON A (interferon alfa-2b, recombinant) for Injection, or INTRON A therapy should be taken with REBETOL (ribavirin, USP) Capsules.
Both Peg Intron and Pegasys have the same effect which is to stimulate our own immune system to fight and kill the virus only different molecular structure.
I'm not real sure on this but the cost is around $2200.00 a month which includes 4 injections and ribavirin. If you have drug coverage the cost is usually covered depending on deductible and co-pay.
If no drug coverage, both companies offer patient assistance programs if the individual qualifies.
There are other costs that go with treatment: periodic blood tests, doctor visits, prescriptions for meds to help with the side-effects.
Small correction – according to my pharmacy the retail cost for a month's Pegasys is $2429 and for Ribasphere $1668 for a total of roughly $4,000 per month. Most health plans negotiate a discount with the drug company so that is not necessarily the price you will see in their reports. For example, my health provider pays $420 for the Ribasphere and $1,800 for the Pegasys which is much closer to the figure you quoted. But if you're actually trying to buy the drugs without any coverage, it will cost twice that (in the U.S.).
I'm pretty sure doctors usually bandy about the figure of 20k for the meds but that is not nearly NEARLY the cost of treatment. Although I did extend tx to 72 weeks I once added it up (tests, biopsy, doc visits, meds and side meds etc.) and my total cost of treatment came to roughly $200,000
Yup. Way more than that 20k the doc was talking about.