WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is calling on Congress to fund a more than $11 billion program to eliminate hepatitis C in the United States.
It’s a significant price tag for a single line in the broader budget request; while the $11 billion ask would cover five years of the new initiative, including everything from purchasing pricey drugs that cure the condition to developing new tests to detect the infection, it still dwarfs the annual budget request for the entire Food and Drug Administration, at $7.2 billion. The annual request for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also comes in below the hepatitis C topline, at $10.8 billion.
The White House is also already working to soften the blow of that expensive price tag, arguing the program would eventually save the government money because it would ensure the government wouldn’t have to pay for care for some of the disease’s more serious side effects. The program overall is expected to cost $5.2 billion over 10 years after accounting for the reduced health care costs. The bloodborne infection, if left untreated, can lead to liver cancer and even death. Francis Collins, the White House official behind the plan, has previously said it would save more than 100,000 lives by 2050.
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