More Louisiana residents living with hepatitis C have been able to receive life-saving treatment because of Louisiana’s innovative payment model for the medications that cure this illness.
More Louisiana residents have received treatment for hepatitis C in the first 75 days of this innovative model than in all of fiscal year 2019. In the period between July 15, 2019 and November 26, 2019, 2,290 people have received life-saving treatment. Those treatments were made possible under an agreement between the Department of Health and Asegua Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Gilead Sciences Inc., which took effect on July 15. The agreement allowed Louisiana to extend access to hepatitis C treatment to Medicaid enrollees and prisoners serving sentences in Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections facilities.
This week, the Department of Health has launched a public awareness campaign along with a dashboard to share treatment numbers, which can be found at www.hepCuredLA.org.
“The state’s first-in-the-nation agreement with Asegua was a tremendous step for us to extend access to treatment. We are now implementing our elimination strategy and we have engaged many community partners throughout the state to screen patients and then help them begin treatment,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. “We are excited by these early treatment numbers and will continue on this path forward to treat as many people as possible to end the hepatitis C epidemic in Louisiana.”
The innovative payment model allows the state to provide an unrestricted amount of Asegua’s direct-acting antiviral medication, the authorized generic of Epclusa® (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir), to treat patients in the state’s Medicaid and Department of Corrections populations. The model caps the State’s medication costs at an agreed amount, which was informed by funding levels authorized during fiscal year 2019.
Dr. Alex Billioux, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public Health, has helped lead the department’s elimination strategy, which includes training providers across the state to treat hepatitis C. After the contract took effect, 137 additional healthcare providers have written prescriptions for Epclusa or the authorized generic of Epclusa. This medication is a direct-acting antiviral medication that is the first treatment regimen that treats all of the six major strains of hepatitis C.
“Before this agreement, only patients infected with hepatitis C that were suffering serious liver damage were being treated with these curative medications,” Billioux said. “Now we are able to treat anyone who tests positive for hepatitis C, allowing many patients to avoid organ damage and other serious health problems before they begin. This agreement also saves lives, because hepatitis C kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined.”
The Department of Health and Asegua announced the five-year innovative payment model agreement at the end of June of 2019. This agreement is the cornerstone of the Department of Health’s elimination plan that engages healthcare and community partners across the state to end the hepatitis C epidemic. To achieve that goal, the state is employing strategies to educate the public on the availability of a cure and reach out to high-risk populations for screenings; connect people living with hepatitis C to care; expand provider capacity; and establish partnership across the state to eliminate hepatitis C in Louisiana.