Any British Columbian suffering from chronic hepatitis C, will now have access to drug treatment regardless of severity, the provincial Ministry of Health announced Tuesday.
The move follows through on a pledge made by the previous BC Liberal government last year to provide drug coverage to anyone in B.C. who needs it beginning in 2018-2019.
The province also announced that it is adding a new hep C drug to the list of approved treatments under BC PharmaCare.
The national Common Drug Review gave the new medication, sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir, also known as Vosevi, a positive review in January of this year.
Vosevi was developed specifically for adult patients with hard-to-treat chronic hepatitis C that has resisted treatment from other drugs.
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Along with Vosevi, BC PharmaCare also covers Daklinza, Epclusa, Harvoni, Solvaldi and Zepartier.
B.C. significantly improved coverage for hepatitis C patients last year, adding four new drugs to the PharmaCare list after B.C. and Ontario led successful national price negotiations with manufacturers.
But until now, patients would have to go through their doctors to obtain PharmaCare approval for the drugs.
Up to 73,000 people are living with the hep C virus, the health ministry said.
The cost to the health system to pay for treatment of the disease can range from $45,000 to more than $100,000 per patient depending on what drug they use and how their treatment progresses, the ministry added.
Nearly a quarter of people who contract hepatitis C are able to clear the virus on their own; however, if left untreated, it is both communicable and can cause cancer and liver failure.
Recent drug breakthroughs have been hailed as a “game changer,” raising the prospect that the virus could be eradicated completely.