New Hepatitis C Drugs May Push State Over Budget

Oct 29, 2014

Providing medical assistance to low income Rhode Islanders will cost the state more than projected. One of the major factors behind the increase is the cost of two new drugs.                   

Two new drugs have just been approved to treat chronic hepatitis C infections. Hepatitis C is one of the leading causes of liver disease, affecting thousands of Rhode Islanders. The drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, from Gilead Sciences, cost between $85 and 95 thousand for a full 12-week course. They’re quickly becoming the new standard treatment. But because of the cost, Medicaid director Doctor Diedre Gifford said her agency has developed a policy that restricts treatment to the sickest patients first.

“We believe that the policy is clinically responsible but also takes into account the very significant cost of providing this medication," said Gifford.

Even with the policy in place, Gifford told a senate finance committee that she anticipates spending around $50 million dollars on the drugs in fiscal year 2015. That’s a big chunk of what’s putting health and human services over their budget projections.

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