medicationEffective April 1, more Saskatchewan residents will have access to highly- effective hepatitis C drugs. Saskatchewan is expanding coverage of six drugs that treat hepatitis C. These new drug therapies have success rates of more than 95 per cent and can cure patients in as little as eight to 12 weeks.

Through the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), provinces, territories and federal drug programs negotiated with the drugs’ manufacturers to leverage their collective buying power and obtain better prices for these drugs. About 12,000 Saskatchewan patients currently infected with the hepatitis C virus may benefit from these national negotiations over the coming years.

“Our government is committed to providing residents with better access to these new and effective treatment options,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said. “These new medications offer a much better chance of curing hepatitis C, and vastly improve patients’ quality of life.”

The pCPA reached an agreement in February with three drug manufacturers that expands access to six different medications for patients with chronic hepatitis C. New hepatitis C drugs listed on the Saskatchewan Formulary include Epclusa, Zepatier, Daklinza, and Sunvepra. In addition, coverage is expanding for Sovaldi and Harvoni, listed in 2015. All of these drugs are listed as Exception Drug Status benefits.

Currently in Saskatchewan and other provinces and territories, criteria for coverage is restricted to patients with more advanced hepatitis C disease. These recent negotiations allow the criteria to be expanded to include patients with less severe disease.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that affects the liver. Effects of the virus range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness, including liver scarring and liver cancer. The disease is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person.

For more information on the approval process and income-assisted programs, contact Drug Plan and Extended Benefits Branch at 1-800-667-7581 or 306-787- 3317 in Regina.