News of the breakthrough hepatitis C drugs has reached the residents of Kentucky, where the rate of the disease is seven times the national average but the drugs themselves—such as Harvoni—remain tragically out of reach, reports STAT. Patients who need the drugs are poor and the state’s Medicaid program can’t afford them. Some 12-week treatments cost nearly $100,000. This year, only 900 of the Kentucky’s 29,000 hepatitis C patients on Medicaid received the drugs, eating up 5% of the state’s Medicaid’s budget.
In addition to the cost, Kentucky, like other states, is struggling to deal with the growing opioid crisis that represents fertile ground for spread of the disease. It promises to get worse as the disease can be dormant for years, meaning that 2.7 million to 3.9 million Americans have hepatitis C without knowing it.
There are lessons here, as STAT reports that “this state could be a case study in how hepatitis C affects other areas, and what happens when demands for specialists, surveillance, and treatment outstrip the ability of health systems to respond.”