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California Poised To Expand Access To Hepatitis C Drugs

Some states are increasing access to hepatitis C cures.

Patrick Garcia wasn’t completely surprised when he learned recently he had hepatitis C. Until a few years ago, he had experimented with numerous drugs, injecting heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine — you name it.

“I haven’t lived exactly a perfect life,” said Garcia, 43, whose mouth, hand and back were injured in a motorcycle wreck last year.

Medi-Cal, California’s public health program for the poor, paid for his post-accident care and the bloodwork that led to his hepatitis C diagnosis. But it wouldn’t pay for the pricey new medications that cure the disease.

“I got denied twice,” said the Sacramento-area resident, who was told he didn’t meet the criteria for treatment. “It’s frustrating, to say the least.”

For at least four years, Medi-Cal has limited coverage of medications such as Harvoni and Sovaldi. Under current guidelines, only people with liver scarring or HIV, women of childbearing age, active injection-drug users, and patients who fall into other high-risk categories can get these drugs.

Still, many Medi-Cal patients who need the drugs have been able to get them.

Starting next month, Medi-Cal is expected to loosen its restrictions and begin providing the drugs to hepatitis C patients, like Garcia, who currently don’t have access.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have set aside $70 million in next year’s budget — which starts July 1 — so that almost all Medi-Cal recipients with hepatitis C will become eligible for the medications, as long as they are at least 13 and have more than one year to live.

The agency expects to treat 2,090 Medi-Cal patients with that extra money in the next fiscal year. In 2017, about 7,800 Medi-Cal recipients received the drugs under the current guidelines.

Brown, who proposed this funding, is likely to approve it by the end of the month.

Read on: California Poised To Expand Access To Hepatitis C Drugs | California Healthline

The health and medical information on our website is not intended to take the place of advice or treatment from health care professionals. It is also not intended to substitute for the users’ relationships with their own health care/pharmaceutical providers.

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