What’s California’s Prescription For Rising Drug Costs?

(By Pauline Bartolone, CALmatters, for Kaiser Health News)

SACRAMENTO — In a small room at a neighborhood clinic in Sacramento, a handful of hepatitis C patients wait to see their physician, hoping they’ll be found sick enough to be approved for a cure.

The low-income patients hope to be prescribed new breakthrough drugs, such as Sovaldi or Harvoni, which offer cures with almost no side effects. But treating the virus comes with a high price tag: at least $84,000 for a course of treatment. Getting Medi-Cal to pay for such drugs can involve a long, arduous process of tests and paperwork to prove infection has progressed to liver damage.

“If you’re practically dead … they’ll approve you,” said Laura Castillo, 54, who has been navigating the Medi-Cal system for four months to get Sovaldi. The former legal clerk said she contracted the virus from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. Patients can live for years symptom free with hepatitis C, but left untreated, it can eventually lead to liver disease and death. Castillo has waited for treatment with substantial liver damage, which burdens her with overwhelming fatigue, depression and what she describes as a “brain fog.” Read article here…..

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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