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Financial Help for Old and New Hepatitis C Drugs

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. July 21, 2011

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For the estimated 60 million Americans without health insurance, the Hepatitis C drug companies have programs in place to finance the cost of antiviral medications.

People with Hepatitis C should not automatically assume they are priced out of this illness’s notoriously expensive treatment. Unfortunately, too many people let pride get in the way of what could be, like their improved health. Especially for those with chronic Hepatitis C who don’t have health insurance, it is important to recognize that there are various financial programs available to reduce the monetary burden of treatment – and there is no shame involved in getting this help.

The financial depression that has taken hold for the past few years has changed the way many people manage their money. For some that means giving up what most think to be luxury items; for others that translates into giving up on what a majority deem to be necessities. Letting go of a vacation home may seem like a major sacrifice to those on the upper range of the economic scale. However, a growing number of Americans with middle and lower portion earnings have had to forfeit a relative essential in our society – the security of health insurance. For those who find themselves without a health insurer to pick up their medical expense tab, needed care is often dismissed as a luxury not obtainable to them. Fortunately, people with chronic Hepatitis C have several options available to finance the immense cost of antiviral medications.

An unprecedented number of American adults under the age of 64 do not have any health insurance. This might be a result of:

  • losing a job
  • having an employer who can no longer offer health benefits
  • the rising costs of health insurance coverage

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 60 million Americans are uninsured – many of whom belong to the “middle class.” From 2006 to 2009, the number of adults aged 18 to 64 years old without health insurance increased by an average of about 1.1 million per year.

About half of the total increase in the uninsured (550,000 people) occurred among those with family incomes two to three times more than the federal poverty level. In fact, this government survey found that individuals without health insurance were seven times more likely than those with health insurance to forgo needed health care. Unfortunately, these statistics mean that at the very least, tens of thousands of Americans with Hepatitis C don’t have health insurance and can’t afford medical treatment. At least that is what uninsured people with Hepatitis C might mistakenly assume.

The key to getting Hepatitis C treatment without health insurance is twofold; let go of the idea that you are asking for a handout AND commit to the extra paperwork necessary. Costing anywhere from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars, Hepatitis C drugs are expensive. Interestingly, the same drug can have a dramatically different price for different buyers. Costs can differ greatly depending on the country dispensing it and the financial status of the patient. Thankfully, the medications approved for Hepatitis C treatment in the U.S. are connected with a compassionate care or financial assistance program.

In order to provide free or low cost medicines to those who qualify, patient assistance programs were created by the pharmaceutical industry. Besides helping with medication costs, patient assistance programs may offer other services, such as a 24-hour on-call nurse, motivational information to help patients adhere to their medications and tips on side-effect management. To find out if you qualify for an assistance program, you can visit the Partnership for Prescription Assistance website at www.pparx.org or call 1-888-477-2669.

For help specifically with Hepatitis C medications, you can also contact the companies directly:

  • Roche:1-877-734-2797 – The manufacturers of Pegasys plus Copegus have the Pegassist Patient Assistance Foundation.
  • Schering:1-800-521-7157 -The manufacturers of PegIntron plus Rebetol have the Commitment to Care program.
  • Vertex: 855-837-8394 – The manufacturer of the recently approved Hepatitis C drug Incivek, has the Vertex Free Medicine Program. This program will provide telaprevir (Incivek) at no cost to people who do not have insurance, are not covered by other benefits programs, and have an annual household income of $100,000 or less.
  • Merck: 866-363-6379 – The manufacturer of the recently approved Hepatitis C drug boceprevir (Victrelis) also has a Patient Assistance Program. This program covers boceprevir, PegIntron, and Rebetol (the company’s brand of ribavirin) for low-income people who do not have private insurance and are not covered by any other benefits programs.

Managing chronic Hepatitis C is hard enough, so don’t let the financial burden of treatment interfere with your prognosis. Regardless of how you have weathered today’s economic climate, a lack of health coverage or money needn’t prevent you from battling Hepatitis C. If pegylated interferon, ribavirin, telaprevir or boceprevir are warranted and financial help is needed, take advantage of the programs in place. By doing so, you have a better chance of being freed from the Hepatitis C virus – without having to climb the economic ladder.

References:

http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/26-americans-do-not-have-health-insurance, 26% of Americans Do not have Health Insurance, Robert Oak, Retrieved June 19, 2011, Economic Populist, 2011.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/PAP.pdf, Patient Assistance Programs, Retrieved June 19, 2011, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2011.

http://www.hivandhepatitis.com/hep_c/news/2011/0531_2011_a.html, Boceprevir (Victrelis) Patient Assistance Program, Retrieved June 19, 2011, hivandhepatitis.com, 2011.

http://www.hivandhepatitis.com/hep_c/news/2011/0531_2011_b.html, Telaprevir (Incivek) Patient Assistance Program, Retrieved June 19, 2011, hivandhepatitis.com, 2011.

http://www.insuranceproviders.com/how-many-americans-have-health-insurance/, How many Americans have health insurance?, Retrieved June 19, 2011, Insurance Providers, 2011.

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  • billy

    It’s great that there is a possibility of receiving these drugs free, it is a blessing! However, if you can’t afford a doctor, you’re not going anywhere. I can’t afford a doctor, so, what do I do now?

  • billy

    billyheddins@yahoo.com – searching for a doctor to administer the drugs for Hep C. I live closest to Tyler Texas.

  • motherof2

    I am unemployed and desperately need medical attention for my Hepatitis C
    I have 2 small children and I am always so tired to care for anythimg.
    I live close to Louisville ky. Please help