Getting Free Hepatitis C Drugs a Boon for Needy Travis County Residents
The Austin American-Statesman reported that the CommUnityCare program, which operates 23 health centers in Travis County, Texas, opened a new clinic to aid hepatitis C patients in gaining access to the assistance programs provided by the manufacturers of the new, very expensive hepatitis C treatment drugs. The treatment course costs $66,000 to $84,000 from drug makers Janssen Therapeutics and Gilead Sciences, respectively. When taken together, the drugs would cost more than $150,000 per treatment course. Many insurance companies, as well as Medicaid and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, have raised concerns about the high cost and are not approving the treatment for all patients.
Both pharmaceutical companies have established assistance programs for patients with or without insurance who need the drugs and qualify for assistance. Gilead Sciences, which makes the $84,000 treatment drug Sovaldi, offers the drug free of cost for eligible patients who have no health insurance and make lower than $100,000 annually to support a family of three or fewer, or who are at or below 500 percent of the federal poverty level. Olysio is the $66,000 treatment drug made by Janssen Therapeutics.
CommUnityCare received $370,000 from Central Health, which oversees the organization. Sarah Cook, Central Health’s Medicaid waiver director, said the new clinic expects to assist hundreds of hepatitis C patients in using the two-drug combination treatment. The clinic opened on March 3 and accepted 38 patients in the first seven days. The program is “an incredible game-changer,” Cook said.
Dr. Imtiaz Alam, medical director of the Austin Hepatitis Center, will lead the staff at the new center. He is asking that Sovaldi and Olysio be put on Texas Medicaid’s formulary. “I believe these new medications are well worth their cost and their utilization will have a positive impact in reduction of future healthcare costs with fewer long-term liver disease complications,” Alam said.
Date of Publication
Mary Ann Roser
Local and Community News
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