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New Hepatitis C Treatment Available – But There’s a Pricey Drawback

New medicationThe newest superstar treatment in hepatitis C, Sovaldi, promises to cure more than 80 percent of cases in just 12 weeks, with very few side effects.

The drawback is that “the miracle” drug costs $1,000 per pill.

In Michigan, the Department of Corrections included in its 2015 budget $4.4 million to treat inmates with this new drug. The budget takes effect Oct. 1.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges from mild to severe, sometimes resulting in liver failure. It is a bloodborne pathogen that is more infectious than HIV. In fact, it can survive outside the body for up to four days in dried blood, while HIV dies once it leaves the body.

The populations at risk for hepatitis C include past injection drug users, those who received blood products before 1987 and those who received piercings or tattoos in unsterilized settings, such as prisons.

Russ Marlan from the Michigan Department of Corrections tells the  Washington Times that this treatment will be “targeted to the serious cases where the traditional hepatitis C drugs have been ineffective.”

Meanwhile, experts from the Medicaid committee in Oregon are deciding how accessible they will make Sovaldi to their Medicaid recipients.

The fear is that having the treatment available to all hepatitis C patients, whom are disproportionately on Medicaid, would exceed the state’s budget for all medical treatments. However, by limiting the drug to only the sickest patients, Oregon will pay about $40 million in the next fiscal year.

Illinois’ health program placed tight restrictions on the use of the drug, including requiring patients to meet 25 criteria and get prior approval before Medicaid will pay for the new drug. The state has already spent $16 million in its current fiscal year on Sovaldi, according to The Associated Press.

With more than 3 million Americans affected by hepatitis C, which surpasses the 1 million living with HIV/AIDS, and with more people dying from hepatitis C, health officials are trapped in a dilemma.

“You can’t put too fine a point on the sort of moral dilemma that we have here,” said Michael Kleinrock, director of the IMS Institute, to Business News Factor. “This is something that the research-based pharmaceutical industry reaches for all the time: a cure. But when they achieve one, can we afford it?”

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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