Via CBC News British Columbia: B.C. won't cover hepatitis C drug that's possible cure for woman infected with tainted blood. Excerpt:
A Nanaimo, B.C., woman who contracted the hepatitis C virus through tainted blood has been denied a blockbuster new medication the province says is extremely expensive and would bankrupt the health budget.
"I think about having hepatitis C every day," says Nikky Davies, who has liver damage and suffers from headaches, nausea and fatigue. "It's ruined my quality of life." Davies, 54, was excited to hear about the new drug Harvoni, which eliminates the hepatitis C virus in approximately 95 per cent of all patients (not including those with liver failure or who have had a liver transplant) and made news when actor Pamela Anderson revealed she had used it and been cured of the virus.
The maker of the drug, Gilead Sciences, considers the infection "cured" once the virus is not detected in the blood three months after the 12-week treatment ends.
Harvoni's success has made it one of the fastest-selling drugs of all time and brought in billions of dollars in sales for Gilead. The pharmaceutical company says the 12-week regimen costs $67,000 in Canada.
Because she is too sick to work and is on disability assistance, Davies applied to B.C.'s Pharmacare program to cover the cost.
But the province said the overall cost to the health care system of providing, administering and monitoring the new drug is actually closer to $140,000 for each patient and denied the request.
The B.C. Ministry of Health confirmed to Go Public that there are more than 70,000 people in the province with the hepatitis C virus, but only patients with severe liver scarring, which compromises liver function and increases the risk of cancer and the need for a liver transplant, qualify for coverage.
"Due to the high prevalence of hepatitis C infection ... the cost of treating hepatitis C infection [with Harvoni] has the potential to significantly affect our health-system sustainability," ministry spokesman Eric Lun wrote.
But Davies said it was the system that got her infected in the first place.
"It was their mistake," says Davies, who got tainted blood during a transfusion at Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1978. "They made me sick, and now I don't qualify to be healthy."