The B.C. government has announced it will cover the cost of medication for all chronic hepatitis C patients, regardless of the severity of the disease.
The provincial government’s announcement comes one week after Ontario announced a similar measure.
“In years past, a hepatitis C diagnosis was a stressful and lifelong struggle,” said Dix. “I’m pleased to share that, as of today, anyone in B.C. living with this now-curable virus will have a choice of several treatment options – all of which are fully funded under PharmaCare.”
A new chronic hepatitis C drug, sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir, also known as Vosevi, has been added to Pharmacare. Daklinza (daclatasvir), Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir), Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir) are still covered under Pharmacare. Doctors will consider the patient’s medical needs, along with PharmaCare’s coverage criteria for each drug, before applying for the drug they feel is the best option for the patient.
“Drug treatments for chronic hepatitis C continue to improve and evolve,” added Dix. “Adding Vosevi to the PharmaCare formulary will ensure that patients have multiple treatment options available to them, which is especially important if a particular drug is not performing to its best ability.”
Approximately 73,000 British Columbians are living with hepatitis C. The health system cost for chronic hepatitis C treatment has ranged from $45,000 to more than $100,000 per patient, depending on the drug and disease progression. In 2017, PharmaCare coverage was provided to 2,657 people in B.C. for medication used to treat chronic hepatitis C.
The government said approximately one-quarter of those living with hepatitis C in B.C. are undiagnosed. Roughly 24 per cent of people with acute hepatitis C are able to clear the virus without treatment but the remaining 76 per cent develop chronic hepatitis C. Those people can remain in stable conditions for years or decades before the virus could advance.
If it is left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can be life-threatening with serious complications, such as liver failure and liver cancer. The government said risk and harm-reduction practices are strongly encouraged for those who may be at higher risk for reacquiring the virus after successful treatment, including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and sex workers.
Hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. Symptoms may include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain and joint pain. There is no vaccine to prevent the infection.