Texans turn to hepatitis C buyers clubs to get life-saving medication

An increasing number of Americans are using international buyers' clubs to import generic hepatitis C medicine from abroad at a fraction of the cost. Buyers' clubs help patients purchase these drugs from India, where manufacturers are licensed to make low-cost generic versions for about 100 developing countries.

An increasing number of Americans are using international buyers' clubs to import generic hepatitis C medicine from abroad at a fraction of the cost. Buyers' clubs help patients purchase these drugs from India, where manufacturers are licensed to make low-cost generic versions for about 100 developing countries. The high price of the medicine in the United States has put it out of reach for the uninsured or those denied coverage. Uninsured Texans can apply for free hepatitis C drugs through patient assistance programs, but few people who used a buyers' club said they knew of that option. In addition, although Gilead Sciences announced it will begin selling generic versions of two hepatitis C drugs in the United States next year at a starting price of $24,000, the drugs are still often much less expensive overseas. Two clubs in Australia and one in the United Kingdom report helping more than 4,000 Americans import the medication for less than $2,500 a person. Health officials caution they cannot ensure the safety of foreign drugs bought online, but the regulations regarding those online purchases are unclear. Thus far, the clubs have not been shut down and few shipments have been stopped by U.S. officials.