British Columbia is providing public drug plan coverage of two
new, often curative, hepatitis C drugs effective March 24, 2015,
announced Minister of Health Terry Lake today.

People with hepatitis C will be able to apply tomorrow for coverage under
B.C.’s PharmaCare program of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir
and sofosbuvir). These new medications cure about 90% or more of people
treated; are easier to take; involve a much shorter course of treatment;
and have fewer side effects than older drugs.

“These two new drugs can utterly change the lives of people with
hepatitis C for the better,” said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake. “These
drugs represent a significant advance in the treatment of chronic
hepatitis C, and more British Columbians affected by this virus now have
significantly better odds of becoming free of the disease.”

British Columbia and Ontario jointly led negotiations with the drugs’
manufacturer through the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA). The
alliance’s process allows participating provinces and territories to
leverage their collective buying power and negotiate better prices for
new drugs.

“This is another example of the power of our collective action, when we
choose to work as one,” said Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term
Care Dr. Eric Hoskins. “By working collectively to leverage our joint
buying-power, we have been able to expand access for patients in a
responsible way that makes our health-care system more sustainable.”

Each participating jurisdiction can choose whether to accept the deal and
cover the drugs on their public drug plans. Prices and terms for this
negotiation are confidential.

Sovaldi treats hepatitis C genotypes 1, 2, and 3, and was approved for
sale by Health Canada in late 2013. Harvoni treats genotype 1, and was
approved for sale in late 2014.

Many older hepatitis C treatments often have difficult side effects; one
such treatment, peginterferon, is injected under the skin as well. Older
drugs also have various cure rates for those able to tolerate the side
effects. Both Harvoni and Sovaldi are swallowed as a pill, and have far
fewer side effects.

“This is incredibly welcome news for people living with hepatitis C in
B.C. and their families,” said Daryl Luster, president of the board of
the Pacific Hepatitis C Network. “As a person who treated with interferon
and ribavirin, I know how difficult those older therapies are. The
hepatitis C community is excitedly anticipating the change these new
game-changing medications will bring to thousands of people living with
hepatitis C in British Columbia.”

PharmaCare will cover Sovaldi or Harvoni 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 B.C. Ministry of Health expects to cover treatment for about 1,500
people in the first year. PharmaCare will monitor and evaluate the
effectiveness of the drugs and the outcomes for patients as part of its
coverage program.

“These publically funded drugs will bring the hepatitis C cure to
infected British Columbians, improve their health, and prevent needless
deaths from liver disease,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, medical head, hepatitis
for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and professor at the Department
of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of British
Columbia. “This begins the path to eliminate hepatitis C in British

In order to fund these drugs and other new therapies, the ministry will
continue its overall efforts to lower drug costs for PharmaCare. Some
recent examples include: the recent single-sourcing of seven generic
drugs; participation in the pan-Canadian price initiative, which has
brought ten 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 for PharmaCare.

Sovaldi and Harvoni are the second and third new hepatitis C drugs
PharmaCare has covered in the past six months. In October, PharmaCare
began coverage of Galexos (simeprevir) for certain people after
successful negotiations to lower its price.

PharmaCare also covers Victrelis (boceprevir) and
peginterferon/ribavirin, for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C.

March is Liver Health Month, which provides an opportunity to raise
awareness of the signs and risk factors for liver disease, including
hepatitis C.