Good news for some Michigan Hepatitis C patients: as of March, Medicaid will pay for new costly drugs that could cure the disease.
It’s an update to a WZZM 13 Watchdog story last month about the cost of the drugs that in some cases can go as high $100,000. Covered drugs include antivirals, like Sovaldi and Harvoni, for Hepatitis C patients who have severe liver disease.
As we told you in our story last month, the drugs can cost more than $1,000 a pill. Finding a way to pay the medications has been a challenge for state Medicaid programs.
State lawmakers just recently approve funding.
Thousands of Hepatitis C patients who depend on Medicaid have been waiting for almost two years for the approval. One patient we told you about in our Watchdog report, Sherry Baribeau, was getting so ill she could not wait any longer. Family and friends finally purchased a private insurance policy which covered the treatment.
She is now in week four of her 24-week-long treatment.
Although the state’s approval came too late for Sherry, she and her family say they are happy to learn Michigan has finally approved funding, so others can began to lead normal lives. It’s important to note that as of now, not all Hepatitis C patients will be covered, just those with advanced cases. That restriction again because of the cost.
In our earlier report, some people we talked to accused the drug companies of price gouging. At least one state, Massachusetts, agrees and is challenging the prices Gilead Sciences is charging for the drugs. The state’s Attorney General says Gilead has priced the drugs so high that it denies what effectively is a cure to large segments of the population who can't afford it.
The market mighthelp bring prices down. Recently, several new drugs have been introduced. One of those has just been approved by the FDA. It’s called Zepatier and is manufactured by Merck.
It will cost $54,000 dollars compared to more than than $94,000 for Gilead's Harvoni.