Hepatitis C advocate seeks PharmaCare coverage for Sovaldi

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For Cheryl Reitz and about 150 million people across the world, hope carries the name Sovaldi.

It’s a new prescription drug for hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease that can lead to death.

“There’s a good chance that we’ll be able to wipe out hepatitis C from the face of the Earth,” Reitz told the Straight in a phone interview today (April 4).

However, salvation comes with a hefty price tag.

In Canada, the one-pill-a-day regimen of 12 weeks costs $55,000. And it’s to be taken with a cocktail of other medicines.

In the U.S., it’s $84,000.

According to Health Canada’s “summary basis of decision” authorizing Sovaldi, the drug can cure more than 90 percent of patients.

B.C.’s PharmaCare, the provincial program that helps residents with the costs of eligible prescription drugs and some medical supplies, covers older medication, namely, peginterferon, ribavirin, boceprevir, and telaprevir.

PharmaCare doesn’t cover Sovaldi, a situation that Reitz believes should change.

Reitz is a Victoria-based volunteer with HepCBC Hepatitis C Education and Prevention Society, a registered charity run by people with hepatitis C.

Sovaldi was approved by Canadian and U.S. regulators in December last year.

According to Reitz, some patients in Canada have gotten Sovaldi through their extended private medical insurance.

In March 2012, when the province approved the coverage of boceprevir under PharmaCare, the B.C. Ministry of Health noted in a news release that there were 64,000 British Columbians diagnosed with hepatitis C at that time.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 350,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.

Reitz said that her organization and other groups are going to be in touch soon with the Ministry of Health about Sovaldi.

“We will ask PharmaCare to cover it,” she said.

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