It's World Hepatitis Day, and The Tyee has a timely article by Pauline Holdsworth: Will BC Cover Pricey Hep C 'Miracle' Treatment? Excerpt:
Hepatitis C patients in B.C. are waiting to hear whether the province will cover new drugs doctors say represent society's first real chance to wipe out the disease, but which are impossible for most people to afford.
In November, Health Canada approved a treatment called Sovaldi, manufactured by Gilead, and another similar drug called Galexos manufactured by Janssen Inc. In combination with another drug, they've been shown to cure hep C 90 per cent of the time.
Dr. Mel Krajden, a hepatologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said the new treatments are a public health "miracle."
He said they have the potential to "eliminate" hep C, which in public health speak means reducing it by 90 per cent. That includes those with cirrhosis, an advanced form of liver damage caused by the disease.
Approximately 242,500 people in Canada have hep C, a serious, sometimes fatal infectious disease that can cause liver failure and is spread through contact with infected blood.
Hep C disproportionally affects marginalized populations. In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, approximately nine in 10 injection drug users have hep C, and a recent study from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS called the rate of infection among Vancouver street youth "alarmingly high."
For years, the only option for hep C patients has been interferon therapy, a treatment that kickstarts the body's immune system to try to flush the disease out, but which has debilitating side effects.
The new medications are the first interferon-free drugs available outside of a clinical trial. The catch? The 12-week treatment has a price tag of approximately $55,000, making it prohibitively expensive for most patients.