Hepatitis C

Prison Hepatitis Legal Fight Continues

May 23, 2019
The state may have to pay millions of dollars more in treatment costs for inmates infected with hepatitis C.
Florida Department of Corrections

After admitting they failed to adequately screen prisoners for the highly contagious disease, Florida corrections officials are challenging a federal judge’s order that found the agency was “deliberately indifferent” to inmates infected with hepatitis C. 

The state may have to pay millions of dollars more in treatment costs for inmates infected with hepatitis C.
Florida Department of Corrections

The state may have to pay millions of dollars more in treatment costs for inmates infected with hepatitis C, following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that said prison officials have been “deliberately indifferent” in caring for thousands of inmates infected with the virus.

House, Senate Tangle On Needle Exchange Plans

Apr 4, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

Momentum has built during the legislative session to allow counties to establish needle-exchange programs to help combat the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. 

Alcohol-Linked Disease Overtakes Hep C As Top Reason For Liver Transplant

Jan 23, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

An estimated 17,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a liver transplant, and there’s a strong chance that many of them have alcohol-associated liver disease. ALD now edges out hepatitis C as the No. 1 reason for liver transplants in the United States, according to research published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Some veterans say they contracted hepatitis from the "jet gun" that was used to immunize them in the Vietnam era, but researchers haven't proven that link.

When a hepatitis C treatment called Harvoni was released in 2014, Dr. Ronald Cirillo knew it was big.

"It's the reason that dragged me out of retirement!" he says.

Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

Dr. Ronald Cirillo and his assistant at the Turning Points free clinic in Bradenton are testing another patient for hepatitis C.

Amid an ongoing lawsuit, the Florida Department of Corrections is now asking the legislature for more than $19 million in funding to treat inmates with the Hepatitis C virus.

Valerie Green is still waiting to be cured.

The Delaware resident was diagnosed with hepatitis C more than two years ago, but she doesn't qualify yet for the Medicaid program's criteria for treatment with a new class of highly effective but pricey drugs.

The recent approval of a less expensive drug that generally cures hepatitis C in just eight weeks may make it easier for more insurers and correctional facilities to expand treatment.

Prison Agency Asks Judge To Reject Hepatitis Arguments

Jun 2, 2017
André Luiz D. Takahashi (Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida Department of Corrections this week asked a federal judge to reject arguments that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing “cutting edge” drugs to prisoners with hepatitis C.

Lawsuit Targets Prison System Over Hepatitis Care

May 12, 2017
Associated Press

Three inmates filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday alleging that the Florida Department of Corrections is failing to provide proper care to thousands of prisoners diagnosed with hepatitis C.

With the approval this month of two drugs to treat hepatitis C in children, these often overlooked victims of the opioid epidemic now have a better chance at a cure. Kids may actually have an easier time than adults getting approved for the treatment, according to some health policy specialists.

Several times a month, Jessica Wen, a pediatrician specializing in liver diseases, has a teenager show up at her clinic at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with an unexpected diagnosis: hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C virus, or HCV, is the most common bloodborne infection in the U.S. and a leading cause of liver failure and cancer. Injection drug use is a common risk factor, as is receiving a blood transfusion before 1992. But some of the teens Wen sees picked up the illness another way: at birth, from their mothers.

Medicaid, Private Insurers Begin To Lift Curbs On Pricey Hepatitis C Drugs

Jul 7, 2016
Lloyd Fox/Getty Images

After legal battles and lobbying efforts, tens of thousands of people with hepatitis C are gaining earlier access to expensive drugs that can cure this condition.

WMFE

Florida health officials are changing the state's policy for administering costly hepatitis C drugs to Medicaid patients and will now require insurance companies to provide the drug at an earlier stage in the disease.

Sarah Jackson had quit abusing drugs, been sober for six months, and was looking forward to starting a career and raising her kids in Fort Wayne, Ind., when she found out she was infected with hepatitis C.

"That was weeks of not sleeping and just constant tears," Jackson says. "I had already put a lot of that behind me and had been moving forward with my life, and this was just a major setback."

WMFE

Medicare spending on breakthrough medications for hepatitis C will nearly double this year, passing $9 billion, according to new government figures. That’s raising insurance costs for all beneficiaries, whether or not they have the liver-wasting viral disease.

The price of drugs is the public’s top health care concern in opinion polls, and the 2016 presidential candidates are increasingly paying attention. The federal Department of Health and Human Services will hold a public forum this week to examine the high cost of new drugs for difficult diseases.

Florida Lawmaker Pushes For Needle Exchange

Oct 25, 2015

The Obama Administration has a new plan to combat the abuse of heroin and prescription drugs. The president is calling for a shift away from incarceration, and towards prevention, and a Florida Democratic Representative is working on just that: a needle exchange program.

hitthatswitch / Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down.

One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder.

He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work.

“I see it as being an AIDS ministry,” he said.

http://www.usbloodbank.org/

Federal authorities have suspended the license of a Miami-area blood bank for violations that include improperly notifying donors who may have been HIV-positive.

  It’s the first time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has suspended a blood bank’s license in more than a decade.

According to a July 9 letter from the FDA, Doral, Florida-based U.S. Blood Bank did not make “reasonable attempts” to notify at least 120 donors between August 2013 and May who tested reactive for HIV and would need another test to verify the results.

WMFE

The Florida Department of Health is offering free screenings for Hepatitis today as part of hepatitis awareness month. The testing comes as hepatitis rates rise in Central Florida.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Hepatitis C a silent epidemic. It often has few symptoms while damaging the liver.

And Hepatitis C is on the rise: Baby boomers are 75 percent of Hep C cases. That’s because blood products weren’t screened for Hepatitis C before 1992, and many were likely infected when the disease was at its height during the 70s and 80s.

Sickest Patients to Get Pricey Hep C Drugs

Oct 29, 2014

In the past year, new hepatitis C drugs that promise higher cure rates and fewer side effects have given hope to millions who are living with the disease.

But many patients whose livers aren’t yet significantly damaged by the viral infection face a vexing reality: They’re not sick enough to qualify for the drugs that could prevent them from getting sicker.

Courtesy of Gilead Sciences Inc.

Florida Medicaid officials have decided to give an extra payment to managed-care plans to cover the unexpected cost of a new treatment for a common viral illness, Hepatitis C.

The Agency for Health Care Administration intends to make a "kick payment" to plans to help them cover the drug Sovaldi, Press Secretary Shelisha Coleman said. That's the term used when an agency gives additional payments beyond the contracted amount because of unforeseen circumstances.

(Editor's note: This article contains two corrections.)

Florida's Medicaid agency has set up guidelines for use of hepatitis C drugs that will limit their required use to only the most severe cases, sparing health plans from some expense during the rollout of the Statewide Managed Assistance Program.

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis C for decades. He's known about it for 20 years. And now he's reaching the end of the road.

"The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic," the 65-year-old Arizona man says.

Courtesy of Gilead Sciences Inc.

A panel that makes decisions about which drugs Florida Medicaid should cover has added the new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which costs over $80,000 for one course of treatment per patient.

A new drug hailed as a breakthrough against hepatitis C comes at a price that  puts treatment out of reach for most who need the medication -- $84,000 for a standard 12-week course of Sovaldi, manufactured by Gilead Sciences.

Who Decides Who Gets Costly Drugs?

Mar 12, 2014

New treatments for hepatitis C that cost at least $66,000 to $84,000 may work better than older drugs, but their cost undermines their value to the health system, a panel of experts said during a daylong forum in San Francisco.

“The price makes it very hard for the health care system,” said Steve Pearson, who oversaw the meeting Monday for the California Technology Assessment Forum, a group affiliated with health insurers that holds public meetings to weigh evidence on new treatments.

With Monday’s Florida Supreme Court ruling that will allow medical marijuana on the November general election ballot, questions abound about who could use it and when -- assuming it passes, which requires a 60-percent margin.

If passed, state officials would work out many of the details, but in the meantime, the Tampa Bay Times offers a Q&A (paywall alert). It answers questions such as:

Gilead's Breakthrough Hepatitis C Drug Approved by FDA

Dec 9, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Federal health officials have approved a highly anticipated hepatitis C drug from Gilead Sciences (GILD) that is expected to offer a faster, more palatable cure to millions of people infected with the liver-destroying virus.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it approved the pill Sovaldi in combination with older drugs to treat the main forms of hepatitis C that affect U.S. patients.