BC Ministry of Health Press Release: More Patients to Benefit from Hepatitis C Treatments

BC Ministry of Health Press Release: More Patients to Benefit from Hepatitis C TreatmentsCopied and Pasted from BC Ministry of Health on February 21, 2017.

Thousands of British Columbians living with hepatitis C will have better access to treatment as a result of successful negotiations brokered by the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA).

“This agreement changes the landscape for hepatitis C patients living in B.C.,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Not only are there four new treatment options for what is now a curable virus, but the savings that were negotiated will allow us to cover treatment options for all hepatitis C patients – rather than just those in more advanced stages of the disease.”

British Columbia and Ontario co-led the negotiations with the drug manufacturers on behalf of the pCPA. The alliance helps provinces and territories leverage their collective buying power and negotiate better prices for new drugs.

The collaborative effort resulted in a significant cost savings to drug plans for participating provinces and territories. The agreement also allows access to treatment for all eligible patients in a fiscally sustainable manner. Prices and terms for this negotiation are confidential.

The list cost to the health system for hepatitis C treatment has ranged from $45,000 to over $100,000 per patient, depending on the drug and disease progression.

Agreements with the pCPA were reached with Gilead Sciences Canada, Merck Canada, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada to provide several hepatitis C drugs at an improved cost:

  • Daklinza (daclatasvir) – new
  • Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir) – new
  • Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir)
  • Sovaldi (sofosbuvir)
  • Sunvepra (asunaprevir) – new
  • Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir) – new

PharmaCare is expanding the criteria in March 2017 to provide coverage to more patients living with hepatitis C. Physicians can apply for coverage of the new drugs on behalf of their patients on or around March 21, 2017. Starting in 2018-19, PharmaCare will provide coverage for any British Columbian living with chronic hepatitis C, regardless of the type or severity of their disease.

Up to 75,000 British Columbians are estimated to be living with hepatitis C. Approximately 24% of those exposed to the virus are able to clear it on their own. However, when left untreated, it can cause serious complications such as liver failure and liver cancer. The new modern hepatitis C therapies are highly effective, with the ability to clear the virus at rates over 95%.

If untreated, hepatitis C virus infection can be a life-threatening communicable disease. Risk and harm reduction practices are strongly encouraged for those who may be at higher risk for re-acquiring the virus after successful treatment, including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and commercial sex workers.

Hepatitis C is the most-frequent cause of premature death among reportable infectious diseases in North America, and has become the most-frequent cause of premature death among people living with both hepatitis C and HIV.

Quick Facts:

  • Hepatitis C is a serious, communicable disease that is spread through direct contact with the blood of a person living with the virus. Symptoms may include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain and joint pain. In some people, it can cause liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.
  • Up to 75,000 people are estimated to be living with hepatitis C in British Columbia. However, many people with the virus have no symptoms. About one-quarter of people living with hepatitis C do not know they have it.
  • About one-quarter of people with hepatitis C do not need treatment, as their body fights off the infection.
  • Once someone is successfully treated and cured of hepatitis C infection, they are no longer able to pass the disease on to others.
  • Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.
  • From March 2015 to December 2016, PharmaCare coverage was provided to about 3,800 people in B.C. for medication used to treat chronic hepatitis C.

Learn More:

For more information on the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance:
http://www.pmprovincesterritoires.ca/en/initiatives/358-pan-canadian-pharmaceutical-alliance

For more information about B.C.’s PharmaCare program:
http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage/pharmacare-for-bc-residents