BY EMILY ALPERT REYESSTAFF WRITER
MARCH 9, 2023 1:14 PM PT LA Times
The Biden administration is seeking billions of dollars for a new push to wipe out hepatitis C, a virus that has continued to kill thousands of people annually in the U.S. despite the existence of extremely effective medications that can cure the infection within months.
The five-year program, outlined as part of a broader budget proposal Thursday by White House officials, has been estimated to have a net cost of $5 billion over a decade, said Dr. Francis Collins, a special advisor to the president for special projects.
It would require an upfront investment now estimated at more than $11 billion over five years, which Collins said would be offset by government savings from preventing liver failure and other conditions that result from hepatitis C — and therefore avoiding the costs of treating them.
The exact costs would hinge on negotiations with drugmakers, who would be paid a lump sum to make an unlimited supply of direct-acting antiviral pills available to patients on Medicaid, as well as those who are uninsured, incarcerated or treated through the Indian Health Service, said Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health.
Such “subscription” deals have already been tested in some states in an effort to expand access to the lifesaving medication.
White House officials said the medicines can now cost roughly $20,000 per patient, but researchers have found curing patients can ultimately save money that would later be spent treating liver ailments.
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