SAN FRANCISCO — More patients will have access to a
life-saving medicine after a decision was made recently by a large
According to Modern
Healthcare, Blue Shield Life and Health and Blue Shield of
California was facing a class-action suit in Northern California
after it initially denied a costly Hepatitis C medicine to some
patients. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge last week
after Blue Shield decided to expand coverage on the drug Harvoni.
Previously, the company only covered the medicine for the sickest
Ryan Clary, executive director of The National Viral
Hepatitis Roundtable, told The Northern California Record he
believes everyone who has Hepatitis C who wants to be cured and has
insurance and a provider willing to treat them should have access to
“Most people would like to be cured of an
infection, that's a chronic, often life-threatening disease, before
severe health complications arise,” he said. “Being able to get
rid of the anxiety of having a very severe virus that attacks the
liver is, for us, reason enough.”
Hepatitis C can lead to a lot
of complications from fatigue and muscle pain to liver disease. It's
also the leading cause of liver cancer, Clary said. The effects of
the disease vary from person to person.
In addition to healing
the sick, providing access to this class of medicine can prevent the
spread of it, he said.
Clary added that a person living with Hepatitis C may not be
suffering from liver disease, but may continue engaging in risky
behavior putting other people at risk, he said. If the person is
cured they will no longer be infecting others.
currently kills more people than any other infectious disease in the
United States including HIV, Clary said.
“We have the
opportunity to actually eliminate Hepatitis C in the United States.
The tools are out there,” he said. “It's a serious public-health
Prior to Harvoni and other drugs in its class, patients
had to use a drug that needed to be injected by the patient for 48
weeks. Severe side effects, similar to chemotherapy, prevented many
from even finishing the treatment, he said.
making it available to all insured patients is probably a combination
of two factors, Clary said. The course of treatment needed can cost
$100,000. Plus, there is a stigma attached to Hepatitis C in some
Clary said one way it can be spread is by the sharing of
needles and the current opioid epidemic in California and the nation
has helped to spread the disease.
It's unfortunate that patients
have to sue to get access to treatment, Clary said, but he is hopeful
that cases like this will mean insurance companies will be less
inclined to put such strict restrictions on life-saving medicine in
“I can't think of any other health condition where
you would tell somebody we're going to wait until you get really sick
before we treat you or in this case cure you. It just doesn't make
any sense,” he said.