Today, the Louisiana Department of Health released a solicitation for offers (SFO) to identify a pharmaceutical partner to negotiate unrestricted access to curative treatment for hepatitis C for Medicaid and incarcerated patients in Louisiana.
The SFO will allow the Department to develop an arrangement through a public/private partnership with a hepatitis C drug manufacturer that will bring the goal of ending the hepatitis C epidemic within reach for the people of the state of Louisiana.
In the United States, hepatitis C kills more people than all other infectious diseases combined. At least 39,000 people in Louisiana's Medicaid program and prison system suffer from hepatitis C infection. The opioid crisis has only increased the number of infections. Because of the high cost of the drug, less than three percent of Medicaid patients who have hepatitis C were treated last year.
“The state cannot afford to eliminate hepatitis C in patients at current drugs prices. Our innovative model will allow us to dramatically expand access to the drug and eventually eliminate hepatitis C as a public health problem,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “Secretary Gee and other leaders within the Department of Health have been thinking outside the box, collecting the best ideas from policymakers, patients, payors and governors from other states to ensure we are pursuing a model that is both realistic and one that can be successful."
In August of 2018, the Department of Health issued a request for information seeking comments on a subscription payment model. The comments received, along with feedback from state leaders and policy experts, were strongly considered and included in the state’s formal SFO.
“Our Department is pursuing a subscription model for hepatitis C treatment that will give us the opportunity to solve a major public health challenge and put a cure within reach for our most vulnerable populations while keeping health care costs stable,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary, Louisiana Department of Health.
The Department of Health’s goal is to treat over 10,000 Medicaid-enrolled and incarcerated individuals by the end of 2020 through the subscription model, with the ultimate goal of eliminating this disease. The Department expects the partnership to begin on July 1, 2019. The result of this partnership will allow Louisiana to have unlimited access to highly effective direct-acting antiviral treatment(s) for five years.
“This subscription model effectively caps the State’s spending on expensive hepatitis C drugs and creates an incentive to treat as many infected people as possible. For the drug manufacturer, this model would guarantee fixed revenue for a contracted period of time and allow the manufacturer to expand their product reach into populations that otherwise would not have received treatment,” added Edwards.
In order to cure as many infected individuals as possible across the state, the Department of Health will implement a number of additional strategies to complement the increased access to treatment enabled by the subscription model.
“This model helps the Medicaid population and the state’s prison population. We have made a commitment to help offenders successfully return to their communities and part of doing that is to ensure they have access to health care coverage and are free from illness such as hepatitis C,” said Jimmy LeBlanc, secretary, Department of Corrections.