Hepatitis C infection is curable. Unfortunately, a hepatitis C diagnosis is not an automatic qualifier for getting the medication. Many people are engaged in what seems like an endless fight for the newest hepatitis C drugs. Insurance companies were happy to approve treatment in the past, when treatments were difficult, risky, and less successful. Now that the drugs are costly, insurance companies are denying, denying, denying.
These denials can wear us down, but it’s still worth fighting for the medications. That’s because hepatitis C treatment, when it works, can save lives. And since it works most of the time, it can save a lot of lives.
There is more evidence of this in the August 2015 issue of Hepatology. Hamish Innes and colleagues give ample proof in their research, Toward a More Complete Understanding of the Association Between a Hepatitis C Sustained Viral Response and Cause-Specific Outcomes. Collecting data from 3,385 patients who were treated from 1996-2011, they measured ten clinical events: liver, nonliver, all-cause mortality, first hospitalization for severe liver morbidity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, cancer, alcohol-intoxication, drug intoxication, and violence-related injury. (Stick with me—these last three seem out of place, but aren’t.)
They looked at the relationship of these events after a sustained viral response (SVR or viral cure), and found:
- SVR is associated with reduced risk of mortality for liver and nonliver conditions
- Patients who had an SVR lead healthier lives, and showed reduced alcohol-intoxication, drug intoxication, and violence-related injury.
- Those with advanced liver disease had the greatest short-term benefit from achieving SVR.
The bottom line is that everything that looked at was improved after achieving SVR, even behaviors changed. The researchers proposed potential explanations.
- Hawthorne Effect: Basically, after some of the intensive coaching and connection with the healthcare team, perhaps there was motivation for lifestyle reform.
- Epiphany Effect: Clearing hep C may inspire patients to improve their health. They see what they are capable of, and they build on that experience.
Or perhaps there are other reasons, such as not having hep C makes it easier to think, move, and live. I don’t know, but life is sure easier for me now that I don’t have it.
Here’s the rub: Hepatitis C treatment is worth fighting for, but you may have to fight for it when you are feeling like crap. Nevertheless, you can do it. Between patient advocacy groups and support forums, there is help.
Despite everything you hear, sometimes there is no fight at all. This is from a reader:
I am currently taking Harvoni (after having Hep C for 40 years) and here’s how I was able to get it – FOR FREE!
First I contacted Gilead’s PAP and was told that if my drug program would not cover it, Gilead would provide it for very small co-pay ($5 a month, I think). My prescription plan (Humana) had already told me (over the phone) that they would not cover it so I thought getting the Harvoni would be easy. However, Gilead still requires proof in writing from the prescription plan that they will not cover it.
To my surprise (and disappointment) the letter Humana sent said that they WOULD cover it. I got right on the phone with Humana to find out what the co-pay would be. For the first month, the co-pay would have been $4,500!!! (Less for the 2nd and 3rd month since the huge co-pay would put me in another level of coverage.) Regardless, $4,500 was completely out of the question.
I called Gilead back and told them my situation, and to my surprise, they gave the me names of two non-profit organizations who award grants to help people get medications they cannot afford. I called the first one, and within 10 minutes, I had $15,000 (their maximum grant amount) to completely cover my co-pays!!!! They give you 4 numbers over the phone to give to your pharmacist. I went to my pharmacy with my prescription and to my surprise, they told me that they had worked with the non-profit a lot in the past. Bottom line: I am getting 3 months of Harvoni for FREE!
I wondered if you might pass this important information on to your blog readers – there is a way! Here are the two organizations’ information that Gilead gave me:
- Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN) – (this is the one I called) 866-316-7263
- Patient Advocate Foundation 800-532-5274
Thank you Pat M. for sharing this information.