Hepatitis C

Stacey McHoul left jail last summer with a history of heroin use and depression and only a few days of medicine to treat them. When the pills ran out she started thinking about hurting herself.

"Once the meds start coming out of my system, in the past, it's always caused me to relapse," she said. "I start self-medicating and trying to stop the crazy thoughts in my head."

In one of the most expensive drug ad campaigns of the year (totaling an estimated $100 million) drugmaker Gilead is pushing a hepatitis C drug, Harvoni, that is straining states' healthcare budgets around the country. As STAT reports, Harvoni's  $94,500 per person price tag has raised an outcry among state leaders whose Medicaid budgets can't handle the cost.  

Sovaldi, a relatively new hepatitis C medication, retails at about $1,000 a pill in the United States. But according to the New York Times, Sovaldi's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, has been selling it for just $10 a pill to the Egyptian government—which gives it to patients for free. 

From the story: 

Sarah Jackson had quit abusing drugs and was sober for six months before finding out she has hepatitis C. The Fort Wayne, Indiana mom says she was newly focused on starting her career and on raising her six kids. The diagnosis came as a shock.

Why Are We Not Testing More People For Hepatitis C?

Dec 1, 2015
blood transfusion
makelessnoise via Flickr

The majority of people who have Hepatitis C don't even know they have it. So why are we not testing more people for it? WHYY’s The Pulse asked New York University Medical Ethicist Art Caplan what is standing in the way.

Medicaid Denies Nearly Half Of Requests For Hepatitis C Drugs: Study

Nov 23, 2015
A cluster of hepatitis viruses, as seen through a transmission electron microscope.

People with hepatitis C who sought prescriptions for highly effective but pricey new drugs were significantly more likely to get turned down if they had Medicaid coverage than if they were insured by Medicare or private commercial policies, a recent study found.

Medicare Spending for Hepatitis C Cures Surges

Oct 21, 2015

Medicare's prescription drug program spent nearly $4.6 billion in the first half of this year on expensive new cures for the liver disease hepatitis C  - almost as much as it spent for all of 2014.

Rebates from pharmaceutical companies 2014 the amounts of which are confidential 2014 will reduce Medicare's final tab for the drugs, by up to half. Even so, the program's spending will likely continue to rise, in part because of strong demand.

What Have We Learned From The Indiana HIV Outbreak?

Oct 2, 2015
Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs distributes clean syringes from the back of a van in June 2015
Seth Herald

When an outbreak of HIV among injection drug users was declared in rural Scott County, Indiana, in February, it made national headlines. HIV was supposed to be an urban problem, and AIDS had been in steady decline among IV drug users since the early 90s. 

Daniel Raymond, policy director at the national Harm Reduction Coalition, says the Scott County outbreak, which infected 181 people, was a “wake up call” for communities around the country who are dealing with rising rates of hepatitis C, ongoing prescription opioid addiction, and increasing abuse of heroin.


From the impact of the HPV vaccine on cervical cancer rates to a new 3-drug treatment for Hepatitis C, Sound Medicine's Jill Ditmire reports this week's Health News Headlines. 

The FDA has approved a once-a-day pill that combines two drugs to treat hepatitis C, the deadly virus that attacks the liver and is believed to infect 3.2 million Americans.

The new product brings several advances, but it also has a steep price tag, reported at $1,125 per tablet. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports:

"The treatment, made by Gilead Sciences, bypasses the need for any injections or older drugs that have serious side effects.