On my prior blog post I spoke about Y.R.G CARE’s initiative to screen for Hepatitis C among high risk populations across India — a population that strikes similarities with the patients that we treat at home at BMC. There’s approximately 12 million people in India with hepatitis C. While the number of people who inject drugs (PWID) is relatively low in Chennai/Tamil Nadu and other southern states, it’s markedly higher in northern and northeastern states given their geographic proximity to the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand) and the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan).
What I found shocking was the cost difference of HCV treatment in India compared to the US. A course of direct acting anti-viral therapy is approximately $550 USD in India, versus $80,000 USD in the US, making India the most affordable place in the world to receive HCV treatment (check out the article link below). The difference is astonishing, and honestly unsettling. In an era where health care costs in the US are heavily scrutinized, it is upsetting to know that these cost discrepancies in treatment exist – I wonder how much this plays into the difference of GDP spent on health among high income countries and lower-middle-income countries like India. It brings up questions of how the pharmaceutical industry determines the cost of medications and more importantly the ethics behind it. Why should someone with the same disease receiving the same treatment have to pay so much more for treatment (…granted out of pocket expenses account for a much larger portion of the GDP spent on health in lower-middle-income)? Why should the cost of treatment depend on where someone lives in the world?