Big federal funding for vets' hep C treatments sneaked into highway bill
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was authorized to spend up to $500 million for hepatitis C (HCV) treatments for veterans through October 1 as part of an emergency highway funding bill, Bloomberg reports.
- There have been recent funding shortfalls at the VA, which have affected sales of new hep C drugs like Sovaldi and Harvoni, according to Gilead executive vice president of commercial operations Paul Carter.
- The $500 million allotted to help cover the funding gap is part of $3.35 billion which has been authorized for the Veterans Choice Fund to cover the cost of private medical services for veterans.
The prices of Gilead's Sovaldi (roughly $84,000) and Harvoni (roughly $94,500) have provoked an ongoing maelstrom of controversy. But the fact is these drugs are associated with a high cure rate, especially if they are used properly.
Veterans are a significant part of the population of individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C. In fact, about 175,000 enrollees in the VA's medical program are HCV-infected and the VA estimates that it will spend $690 million in 2016 for 11,394 treatments, based on budget forecasts, Bloomberg notes.
The stopgap highway funding bill was passed by Congress last Thursday, and signed into law the very next day by President Barack Obama.
- Bloomberg Business Highway Bill Gives $500 Million to Veterans’ Hepatitis Drugs