Latest California Healthline Stories
The program that provides health care for about half of the U.S. territory’s population cannot afford to cover the drugs.
As the number of people who inject drugs has soared, the rate of hepatitis C infection has climbed steeply, too, because the disease can be tied to sharing needles. Yet many drug patients are not checked for the virus that can damage the liver.
A survey of 49 states reveals that an estimated 144,000 inmates with hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal disease, can’t get the expensive drugs they need to cure it. California lawmakers allocated $106 million in the state’s new budget to treat more infected prisoners.
New state rules and funding, which are pending approval from the governor, would make almost all Medi-Cal recipients with hepatitis C eligible for pricey, lifesaving medications, as long as they are at least 13 and have more than one year to live.
About a dozen states have added hepatitis C to the list of medical conditions for which people can face criminal prosecution if they engage in certain activities like sex without disclosure, needle-sharing or organ donation.
One Northern California physician is a foot soldier in the fight against a surge of hepatitis C, mainly among young drug users who share infected needles.
The two FDA-approved manufacturers of the vaccine, hit by an unexpected spike in demand, have had difficulty keeping pace. In San Diego County, home to the deadliest outbreak in the nation, officials are postponing a campaign to give at-risk residents the second of two doses.
The drug, sold under the name Mavyret, can cure all six genetic types of the liver disease in eight weeks at a cost of $26,400, well below other options.
Hundreds of people, most of them homeless, have been infected. In San Diego County, where 17 people have died, critics fault authorities for being slow to act.
Several public health officials endorse using a federal law to slash hepatitis C drug prices in Louisiana and avoid drug bills that could cripple the state budget.