AP NEWS

Oregon Health Plan to end ration of costly hepatitis C cure

December 20, 2018

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Health Authority is expecting to lift requirements that led to rationing the use of a $1,000-per-pill drug that can cure hepatitis C.

Most patients covered by the Oregon Health Plan had to have liver damage in order to qualify for the hepatitis C cure, the Mail Tribune reported Wednesday.

The state plans to lift that stipulation in March, allowing the treatment before people sustain liver damage from the disease.

About a quarter of the state’s population is covered by the Oregon Health Plan. The state authority has estimated that 95,000 Oregon residents have hepatitis C but about half don’t know it.

New drugs released in 2013 and 2014 can cure most cases of the disease previously thought incurable, but the price tag caused problems.

Pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences charged $84,000 for a 12-week treatment of Sovaldi, and it priced Harvoni at $94,500.

Providing the drug to everyone with hepatitis C would have likely bankrupted the Oregon Health Plan and led to unaffordable premiums, health officials said.

“It was a complete bank-breaker. There was no way individual insurance plans or governments could afford the pill where it was priced,” said Jennifer Lind, CEO of Jackson Care Connect, a provider of Oregon Health Plan coverage.

The prices of the treatment are falling as more hepatitis C drugs and generics hit the market. Gilead Sciences announced in September that it will release a generic version of Harvoni in January, pricing it at $24,000.

“As those prices have gone down, you’ve seen people getting more and more access to the drug,” said Josh Balloch, vice president of government affairs for AllCare Health, another provider of Oregon Health Plan coverage.

___

Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

AP RADIO
Update hourly