If Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards have their way, they are going to make hepatitis C history in Louisiana.
The Secretary and the Governor were in New Orleans on June 26 at CrescentCare to roll out a statewide initiative with Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc and representatives from Asegua Therapeutics, LLC, a subsidiary of Gilead Sciences.
“Our goal is to eliminate this disease in Louisiana, and we have taken a big step forward in that effort,“ Governor Edwards said.
According to CrescentCare infectious-disease doctor Jason Halperin, hepatitis C has dire consequences if left untreated. It affects more than two million people across the United States.
“The hep-c crisis in the country is incredibly urgent,” Dr. Halperin said. “People die of hep C more than any other infection that exists in the United States whether it be HIV, TB, influenza so it is an urgent need to treat and cure.”
According to Dr. Gee there are 39,000 people in Louisiana’s Medicaid and prison system who suffer from the viral infection which attacks the liver.
The cost of treatment is expensive, and the cost of generic drugs cost as much as $30,000 for a course of treatment and up to $90,000 for the brand name.
The deal between the drug company and the state will save the state millions of dollars. Treatment estimates before the deal would have cost the health department an estimated $760 million which is “more than the state spends on K-12 education. Veteran’s Affairs and Corrections combined,” said Dr. Gee. Because of the astronomical cost to Medicaid, the state had to restrict the drug to only those who had damage to their livers already. Last year the state only had $30 million to spend and was only able to treat 300 people.
Now for one set cost, the Louisiana Department of Health will get unrestricted amounts of the hep c medication Epclusa® for people on Medicaid and in the prison population. They will spend a pre-negotiated capped subscription price and after that price they get rebated back 100 percent of the spend.
“The state will receive an unrestricted supply of this life-saving medication while capping our expenditures at the same time,” Governor Edwards said.
Dr. Gee’s goal is to treat 10,000 people by next year and 31,000 people by the end of 2024.
The program is expected to roll out on July 15.
For more information on hepatitis C treatment, call CrescentCare at 504-821-2601 or another community health center in your area.