Some Thunder Bay, Ont. organizations treating hepatitis C patients say the province’s move to improve access to curative drugs for the disease could help stop its spread.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Holly Gauvin, the executive director of Elevate NWO, a group that supports hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS patients.

Thunder Bay has some of the highest hepatitis C infection rates in Ontario, according to public health officials.

Until now, only patients with at least moderate liver damage could access the new, once-a-day drugs through government programs.

In February, however, the provinces and the federal government reached a new, cost-saving deal with the companies that make the medications, improving their availability.

Now all patients in the province can apply for funding for a course of treatment, regardless of how sick they are.

“It means that we’re going to be able to treat more people,” Gauvin said.

“It means people will be able to live better and longer and be able to resolve at least one health care issue.  It also means a stop in the spread of hep C.”

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