Tens of thousands of Canadian patients with mild versions of chronic hepatitis C could soon receive public funding for medications that cure the infection now that the provinces have sealed a deal with three pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of the ultra-expensive drugs.
The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), which negotiates prices on behalf of the provincial and territorial public drug programs, announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the makers of six breakthrough hepatitis C medications, including the best-known drugs in the class, Harvoni and Sovaldi.
Shortly after the pCPA confirmed the deal, the British Columbia government declared that its PharmaCare program would begin covering the drugs for patients with chronic hepatitis C, regardless of the type or severity, beginning in 2018.
That is an important change from B.C.’s current policy, which restricts public funding of the drugs to patients with certain genotypes of hepatitis C and advanced liver scarring.
“This is excellent news,” said Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, which has a hepatitis C research program.
“By having a more widely available treatment, you can foresee a situation where not only are [hepatitis C] morbidity and mortality controlled, but also we change the course of the epidemic,” he said. “Ultimately, we can aim to control the hepatitis C epidemic in our midst.”
It is not clear yet how many other provinces will follow B.C.’s lead. Whenever the pCPA concludes a deal for undisclosed price reductions, each province still has to decide how to implement the changes to its own public drug plan.