B.C. providing public coverage for breakthrough hepatitis C drugs

A pair of new hepatitis C drugs that have proven remarkably effective are now covered under B.C.’s public drug plan.

Last week the provincial government announced that Sovaldi and Harvoni would now be covered, likely helping 1,500 British Columbians in the first year of coverage alone.

“These two new drugs can utterly change the lives of people with hepatitis C for the better,” said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake in a statement.

“These drugs represent a significant advance in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, and more British Columbians affected by this virus now have significantly better odds of becoming free of the disease.”

According to the government, people who haven’t been treated for hepatitis C, or who have failed treatment with older drugs, may be eligible for coverage.

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While the new medications cure around 90 per cent of people and are easier to take, they were prohibitively expensive. A 12-week course of Harvoni costs $67,000, and Downtown Eastside activist Brody Williams struggled for months to find a government agency that would fund his treatment.

“This is incredibly welcome news for people living with hepatitis C in B.C. and their families,” said Daryl Luster, president of the board of the Pacific Hepatitis C Network.

“As a person who treated with interferon and ribavirin, I know how difficult those older therapies are. The hepatitis C community is excitedly anticipating the change these new game-changing medications will bring to thousands of people living with hepatitis C in British Columbia.”

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