Eliminating hepatitis C for nearly 200,000 in Michigan

Michigan News

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, state officials are launching an initiative aimed at eliminating hepatitis C or HCV in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services designed the We Treat Hep C Initiative to bring down the cost of hepatitis C medication for Medicaid and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Over 70 million people worldwide, including around 115,000 people in Michigan are known to have the viral infection, although the actual number may be as high as 200,000 in the state.

“When left untreated, patients with chronic hepatitis C are at an increased risk for liver cirrhosis, which can ultimately lead to death,” says Robert Fontana, M.D., University of Michigan’s medical director of liver transplantation.

With a more than 90% success rate, Direct-Acting Antivirals can cure the disease when taken every day for two to six months. However, the high prices associated with these drugs have strained Medicaid, Healthy Michigan Plan, and MDOC program budgets.

In the coming weeks officials will announce a Request for Proposals from drug manufacturers to provide a significant discount to these programs.

“MDHHS is committed to working with clinicians throughout the state to ensure that persons impacted by HCV can access these lifesaving medications wherever they live,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS.

An estimated three to four million Americans have chronic HCV infection, with many of them being baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. However, a second wave of HCV infection is now being seen in younger adults between the ages of 18 and 40, including pregnant women, according to the University of Michigan Health Lab.

“I think that it’s important to note that this shift in demographics is likely attributed to the rise of both the opioid epidemic and illicit drug use,” says Fontana.

World Hepatitis Day (July 28) raises awareness for the 325 millions people affected by viral hepatitis which causes liver disease and can be fatal.

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