This drug costs $84,000

And there’s nothing the US health-care system can do to stop it.

By:  Sarah Kliff

The first thing Philip Mason noticed was the hair loss. The 73-year-old retiree, a former computer programmer, began shedding hair from his arms, legs, everywhere on his body. "It just all came right off," he said.

After the hair loss came weight loss; Mason dropped from 150 to 125 pounds. He felt weak and sick. Mason, who is blind and already used a white cane to get around, began having falls. He switched to a walker for more stability.

Mason went to the doctor and discovered he had Hepatitis C. He had contracted the disease through sex with an ex-boyfriend. And when he received his diagnosis three years ago, the prognosis wasn't good. He already had renal insufficiency, a chronic condition in which the kidneys become increasingly weak and unable to process urine. After the diagnosis of Hepatitis C, which weakens liver function, Mason's doctor recommended a transplant.

Mason declined. "I told my doctor I was already old, and worried about what my quality of life would be like after the transplant," he said.

So Mason lived with his Hepatitis C, the hair loss, the weight loss, the walker, and the falls, until this past February. That's when his doctor at the Whitman Walker Clinic in Washington, DC, asked if he wanted to try a new Hepatitis C drug called Sovaldi. It had just come on the market a few months earlier. In initial trials, Sovaldi used with another medication cured at least 94 percent of Hepatitis C cases during a 12-week treatment course.

Treatment would not be invasive like a liver transplant. He would just need to take Sovaldi and one other medication once a day for three months. Mason agreed.

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