Hepatitis C: Cost In The Way Of A Cure

May 28, 2015

Christopher Cummins, 42, believes he contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions at birth. Last year, his insurance paid for a $100,000 treatment that eradicated the virus.
Credit Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

Dee’s liver is scarred, but just a bit too healthy for her insurance to foot the bill for the new medications that cure hepatitis C more than 90 percent of the time.

The Butler County resident, who suspects she got the virus getting a tattoo, was recently told by her doctor to come back in a year.

John, a retired small-business owner from Washington County who was given blood in the early 1990s, was also denied the antivirals. Now, as he watches a friend grow weak from liver cancer, he fears he’s glimpsing his future.

An appeal to a pharmaceutical company is Jennifer’s last shot at treatment after the insurance company denied her three times. The 34-year-old office manager — who said she gave up her heroin habit nine years ago — can barely make it through the workday because of fatigue.

“My quality of life is not what it was even a few months ago,” she said from her McKean County home.

These Pennsylvanians, who asked that their last names not be used because of the stigma surrounding hepatitis C, are among an estimated 205,000 in the state and 3.2 million in the country with the infectious blood-borne virus.

The vast majority of those patients could be cured by new all-oral medications that came to market in late 2014, but because the costs and demand are so high, insurers are restricting who gets to be treated.

Read more of this report at the website of our partner PublicSource.