(UNDATED) – Hepatitis C can cause liver damage and can even kill you. Thousands of Hoosiers were denied treatment that’s about 90 percent effective in curing it because it costs too much. The ACLU of Indiana says on July 1; those people will be able to get the medicine.
“Indiana has had restrictions on who may access these new drugs that actually cure hepatitis C,” said Gavin Rose, an attorney with the ACLU. He said the restrictions are part of a trend across the country. Medicaid has refused to pay for the direct-acting antiviral medication unless a person has reached a certain level of liver damage because the drugs cost too much.
“It could have stopped the liver damage. It would have cured the disease. They no longer would have been able to transmit it to others, and they certainly would not have been symptomatic,” said Rose.
Rose said the long-term benefits outweigh the initial cost of the drugs. That includes cutting down on the public health threat and the cost of treating liver damage, liver transplants and other effects of hep C.
The ACLU sued in 2015.
“Effective July 1 of this year, the state will eliminate any requirement that an individual has a certain degree of liver disease to receive the treatments,” said Rose, of an agreement reached between the ACLU and the state, and now approved by the court.
Hep C is the deadliest infectious disease in the U.S., killing more Americans than the next 60 infectious diseases combined. Even in the initial stages of the disease, Hepatitis C can cause serious symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, depression, arthritis, as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, nerve damage, jaundice, and various cancers.
“This policy was withholding potentially life-saving drugs and forcing thousands of Hoosiers who cannot afford private insurance to live with the serious negative health effects of Hepatitis C,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana. “By ensuring full access to Hepatitis C treatment, this agreement will save lives.