The Louisiana Department of Health has received three formal responses to the solicitation for offers to identify at least one pharmaceutical partner to negotiate unrestricted access to curative treatment for hepatitis C for Medicaid and incarcerated patients in Louisiana.

The solicitation for offers was issued in January 2019. The Department has received responses from AbbVie, Asegua Therapeutics (subsidiary of Gilead) and Merck.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, said that having three pharmaceutical companies submit a response means the State is one giant step closer to its goal of eliminating hepatitis C in Louisiana.

“Our goal with this subscription model is to provide access to treatment for vulnerable populations who need it. We are very pleased with this level of interest and we are looking forward to working with at least one partner to help us end the hepatitis C epidemic in Louisiana,” said Gee.

The Department will review the responses and plans to announce one or more partners in April. The next steps are:

  • Presentations and discussions: March 15, 2019; location TBA
  • Notice of intent to award announcement on or about: April 15, 2019
  • 45-day negotiation period begins: April 16, 2019
  • Contract execution, on or about: June 1, 2019
  • Effective date of contract: July 1, 2019 

“To maintain the integrity of the scoring and selection process, the Department will not publicly release the responses until its partner is selected,” said Stephen Russo, executive counsel for the Department.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined.  Limited access to therapies due to high cost has created a public health crisis in Louisiana. About 39,000 people in Louisiana's Medicaid program and prison system are carrying hepatitis C.  The current high cost of the drug resulted in fewer than 3 percent of people with hepatitis C being treated through Medicaid and only a handful of incarcerated individuals treated in Louisiana last year.

“This is a groundbreaking model for drug pricing and access to medications. This model, which we are developing in partnership with industry, moves us from the focus on per-unit cost to a focus on outcomes and has implications for many other diseases and conditions in vulnerable populations. For example, we could use this model to provide universal access to addiction treatment or for cures to cancer in programs with constrained funding,” Gee said.

The Department of Health’s goal is to treat all Medicaid-enrolled and incarcerated individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus by the end of 2020 through the subscription model, with the ultimate goal of eliminating this disease. This partnership will allow Louisiana to have unlimited access to highly-effective, direct-acting antiviral treatment for five years at a cost capped at current spend. 

Click here for details about the Department’s plan and the solicitation for offers.