The Veteran’s Administration is committed to eliminating hepatitis C.
Only a few years ago, stories appeared in the media about how tens of thousands of U.S. veterans were infected with hepatitis C and that the government couldn’t afford to treat them. Typical was a CBS News report headlined “VA can’t afford drug for veterans suffering from hepatitis C”. The drug in question was Gilead’s Sovaldi, a once-a-day pill that remarkably can cure hepatitis C over a 12 week regimen. The concerns being raised by the press was that Sovaldi cost $1,000/pill – a cost that could cripple the VA’s budget if all of our veterans were to be treated.
The issue was especially timely. These veterans, many of whom contracted the disease during their service in the Vietnam War as a result of battlefield injuries requiring blood transfusions, were now suffering from the consequences of this largely silent menace. They were now experiencing liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Without Sovaldi, the sicker of these patients were facing certain death.
Fast forward to last Friday. At the 24th Annual Wharton Health Care Business Conference, Dr. David J. Shulkin, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that the VA was on track to eliminate hepatits C infections in the next 12 months for those who are willing and able to be treated. In October 2014, the VA had over 146,000 veterans afflicted with hepatitis C. By next October, this number will be only 20,000.
How did this happen? Here’s the VA’s response as contained in their 2018 Budget in Brief:
|Source: The VA Will Eliminate Hepatitis C In Veterans By Year-End|