By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger
The month of December is filled with various holidays, parties, and celebrations. As such, we, here at the Community Access National Network, do everyone the favor of not releasing an 80+-page report to allow everyone the opportunity to take a break from poring over state-by-state treatment coverage charts, sifting through maps, and drinking in the latest news. Instead, we encourage you to pour yourself an eggnog, sift some ground nutmeg on top, and drink in some good cheer. In lieu of this month’s HIV/HCV Co-Infection Watch Report, we are doing a three-part HEAL Blog covering what has been a year of changes for the better, often despite the world around us.
In January 2018, we reported that there were 37 states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that had expanded their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) to include coverage for Hepatitis C (HCV) Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs). To put this in perspective, in our inaugural edition in January 2015, there were only seven states (CA, CO, HI, IA, MA, MN, & NJ) that offered coverage for these drugs. Three years later, and 30 additional states have expanded coverage? That is a sea change of epic proportions.
In November 2018, we reported that there are 39 states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that have expanded their ADAP programs to cover HCV DAAs. By comparison, in November 2015, there were 14 states that offered coverage, which, for that year, doubled the number of states covering DAAs. At the time, that was fantastically encouraging.
This trend of expanding coverage continued throughout the following years, and while these gains are impressive – particularly the fact that Mississippi expanded coverage – there is still work to be done. Including the U.S. Territories, there are still 17 ADAP programs (AK, CT, ID, IN, KS, KY, MT, NV, OH, SC, UT, VT, WY, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Palau, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) that offer no coverage or cover only Basic HCV treatment regimens (i.e. – Pegylated-Interferon and Ribavirin – treatment regimens that are no longer the standard of care for many years now).
Our colleagues over at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) have done amazing work over the years to convince ADAP programs to expand their coverage, and Amanda Bowes, a Manager on NASTAD’s Health Care Access Team, presented an excellent set of reasons why ADAP programs choose to offer coverage (which can be found here – http://www.tiicann.org/urls/CANN-PPT-2-Bowes.pptx.
So, what will get these states and territories over the finish line? It is likely going to take an even more severe reduction in the cost of medications. With the impending release of Gilead’s authorized generic versions of Harvoni and Epclusa in January 2019 – the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of which will be just $24,000 for twelve weeks of treatment (Hee Han, 2018) – we can hope that more states will decide that they can afford to expand coverage.
Of particular concern are Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, three states that have been hit considerably hard by dual opioid and HCV epidemics in the past few years (as well as increases in HIV transmission related to Injection Drug Use among opioid and heroin abusers). With many of the newly infected HCV patients already being positive for or simultaneously contracting HIV andthe high burden of opioid and heroin abuse on the poor, it is likely that many of these patients will be eligible for their respective states’ ADAP programs. Coverage for HCV DAAs in these states is critical to ensuring that further costs associated with failing to treat and cure HCV are not shifted onto ADAPs.
As far as the territories are concerned, expansion of their respective ADAP programs to cover HCV DAAs is anybody’s guess. Every article we read about healthcare coverage in the U.S. territories indicates that they are essentially crumbling as a result of a fundamental failure of Congress to adequately fund territorial healthcare programs, including those that provide coverage of HIV or for the poor. The U.S. has long abdicated its responsibility to support these territories, and that is unlikely to change. Worse, still, despite having Congressional representation, these territories have little say in how the U.S. government treats them. If the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria’s total devastation of Puerto Rico is any indication, it is unlikely that they even know that the other territories exist, much less will they lift a finger to provide any resources to them.
All in all, 2019 may be the year that gets all the remaining states, at least, over the HCV DAA coverage hurdle.
- Hee Han, D. (2018, September 24). Authorized Generics of Epclusa, Harvoni Will Soon Be Available for HCV Treatment. New York, NY: Haymarket Media, Inc.: Monthly Prescribing Reference: News: Generic News. Retrieved from; https://www.empr.com/generics-news/harvoni-epclusa-authorized-generics-available-soon-hepatitis-c-virus-infection-hcv/article/802033/
Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.