The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announced a new collaboration with Walmart to advance the state’s goal of eliminating hepatitis C in Louisiana by 2024. LDH and Walmart will work together to implement a pilot program in 10 Walmart stores to offer free hepatitis C screenings at the pharmacy for people who are at risk, along with in-store education and awareness. The free screenings will begin on Dec. 11 and will be offered from 2 – 6 p.m. each Wednesday in-store until Feb. 1, 2020.

The screening consists of a finger stick test, conducted in a private space within the Walmart pharmacy, that can detect the presence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies, indicating previous or current exposure to the virus.  If someone has a reactive test, the individual will be referred to their primary care provider, or a local provider if the patient does not have a primary care provider, for additional screening and treatment if appropriate.

Individuals will be referred to providers who accept private and public insurance, as well those who treat the uninsured. Individuals will also be provided information about hepatitis C and its effects on the liver, as well as referred to for additional resources.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, said Walmart is providing leadership that will help the State meet its ambitious goals of population-level screening and hepatitis C elimination.

“By partnering with Walmart, we are trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get screened for this virus and then get treated,” she explained. “We also recently announced a partnership with Asegua Therapeutics that makes the medicine to cure hepatitis C widely available to the State without increasing our costs.”

The payment model with Asegua, announced earlier this summer, allows the State to purchase an unrestricted amount of Asegua’s direct-acting antiviral medication, the authorized generic of Epclusa, for dispensing within the Medicaid and Corrections populations at a capped cost.

Walmart is committed to being a center of wellbeing in the communities it serves through quarterly wellness days, $4 generic prescription program, low-cost immunizations, free health screenings and an assortment of organic products and groceries at everyday low prices. Walmart’s Specialty Pharmacy business published a study documenting how its high-touch approach with hepatitis C patients improved treatment outcomes through strong, coordinated care processes.

“With more than 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, we are an important part of the community and the daily lives of our customers,” said Dr. Thomas Van Gilder, Chief Medical Officer for Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness. “We are proud to collaborate with LDH on this important initiative to help people live better – and healthier – lives.” 

In the United States, hepatitis C kills more people than the 60 other reportable infectious diseases combined. An estimated 39,000 people in Louisiana's Medicaid program and prison system are infected with hepatitis C.

Health effects of untreated hepatitis C

Many people living with hepatitis C do not even know they have it. Hepatitis C damages the liver causing scarring, cirrhosis, or liver cancer. As many as 1 in 20, or 5%, of people with untreated chronic hepatitis C will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Hepatitis C screening recommendations

The Louisiana Department of Health recommends that every Louisianan be screened at least once in their lifetime, and perhaps more if they are at higher risk for the infection. In addition, the CDC offers these guidelines for hepatitis C screening:
  • Were born from 1945 – 1965
  • Received donated blood or organs before 1992
  • Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
  • Have certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS
  • Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
  • Have been exposed to blood from a person who has hepatitis C
  • Are on hemodialysis
  • Are born to a mother with hepatitis C
Walmart screening locations

Free hepatitis C screenings available from 2 – 6 p.m. each Wednesday from Dec. 11, 2019 until Feb. 1, 2020 in the pharmacies of the following stores:
  • Caddo Walmart: 929 S PINE ST VIVIAN LA 71082
  • Evangeline Walmart: 891 E LASALLE ST VILLE PLATTE LA 70586
  • Iberia Walmart: 1205 E ADMIRAL DOYLE DR NEW IBERIA LA 70560
  • Lafourche Walmart: 4858 HIGHWAY 1 RACELAND LA 70394
  • West Carroll Walmart: 705 S CONSTITUTION AVE OAK GROVE LA 71263
  • Tangipahoa Walmart: 1200 W OAK ST AMITE LA 70422
  • Ouachita Walmart: 1840 MCKEEN PLACE MONROE LA 71201
  • Livingston Walmart: 34025 LA HIGHWAY 16 DENHAM SPRINGS LA 70706
  • St. Landry Walmart: 2310 S UNION STREET OPELOUSAS LA 70570
  • St. Mary Walmart: 1002 LA HWY 70 MORGAN CITY LA 70380