British Columbia is providing public drug plan coverage of another new generation hepatitis C drug, Holkira Pak, announced Minister of Health Terry Lake today.
Effective today, World Hepatitis Day, people with hepatitis C genotype 1 can now apply for coverage of Holkira Pak (ombitasvir, paritaprevir, ritonavir and dasabuvir) under B.C.’s PharmaCare program. Based on clinical studies, this new combination medication cures more than 90% of people treated.
“B.C. has once again been able to expand treatment options for people living with hepatitis C, which will change the lives of these people and their families,” said Lake. “We’ve been able to do so thanks to interprovincial co-operation in negotiating lower prices, part of the hard work B.C. has done to bend the cost curve on drugs overall, especially generic drugs. ”
British Columbia and Ontario jointly led negotiations with the drug’s manufacturer through the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. The alliance’s process allows participating provinces, territories and the federal government to leverage their collective buying power and negotiate better prices for new drugs. Prices and terms for this negotiation are confidential.
Holkira Pak treats genotype 1 hepatitis C only, and was approved for sale by Health Canada in December 2014. PharmaCare covers Holkira Pak for people who meet certain criteria. For example, people who have never before been treated for hepatitis C or who have failed treatment with older drugs may be eligible for coverage.
“The Pacific Hepatitis C Network applauds the addition of new treatments like Holkira Pak to the PharmaCare formulary here in B.C.,” said Daryl Luster, president of the board of the Pacific Hepatitis C Network. “I can say with great certainty that lives will be saved, and the quality of life for thousands of people living with hepatitis C, and their families will be impacted in the most positive of ways due to this action by the Government of British Columbia.”
This is the third new generation hepatitis C drug B.C. has covered under PharmaCare in the past year. PharmaCare also offers coverage of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir). It covers older hepatitis C drug Galexos (simeprevir), Victrelis (boceprevir) and peginterferon/ribavirin.
These new drugs are swallowed as a pill, and are therefore easier to take. Also, these new drugs involve a much shorter course of treatment and have fewer side effects than older drugs used to treat hepatitis C.
Each of the new drugs has different effects and benefits, depending on the patient’s needs and condition. Doctors will consider the patient’s medical needs, along with PharmaCare’s coverage criteria for each drug, and apply for the drug they feel is the best option for the patient.
“This drug combination creates another curative treatment option for people infected with hepatitis C genotype 1, the strain affecting most British Colombians,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, medical head, hepatitis for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. “With new treatments that will soon be able to cure all of the hepatitis C strains, it's imperative that people within affected communities, health-care providers and governments to work together to make treatment available to those in need.”
The negotiated price for Holkira Pak is part of the ministry’s overall efforts to lower drug costs. Some recent examples include:
- the recent single-sourcing of seven generic drugs;
- participation in the pan-Canadian price initiative, which has brought 14 common generic drugs to 18% of the brand name price; and
- PharmaCare coverage changes for DPP-4 inhibitor diabetes drugs.
These efforts have saved tens of millions of dollars.
- Hepatitis C is a serious, communicable disease that is spread through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. Symptoms may include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain and joint pain. In some people, it can cause liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.
- There are about 80,000 people living with hepatitis C in B.C. However, many people with the virus have no symptoms. About one-third of people living with hepatitis C do not know they have it.
- About one-quarter of people with hepatitis C do not need treatment, as their body fights off the infection.
- For those with persistent chronic infections and disease in B.C., about 50,000 in B.C. may eventually require treatment.
- People who are successfully treated and cured of hepatitis C infection are then not able to pass the disease on to others.
- In 2014-15, about 1,100 people in B.C. were treated for chronic hepatitis C with medication.
For more information on PharmaCare coverage of hepatitis C drugs, please visit: www.gov.bc.ca/pharmacarespecialauthority