Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Louisiana’s hepatitis C subscription model: ‘We were going to fix this problem’

In case you missed it, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee sat down with the Brookings Institution on July 22 to discuss the Department’s plan to use a subscription model to obtain expensive hepatitis C drugs. The plan has generated considerable interest given the innovative use of a model that Dr. Gee has said could help Louisiana cure the disease for thousands of patients.

If you missed the video coverage of the panel discussion featuring Dr. Gee, you can find a transcript of it here

At left is Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee.
Dr. Gee discussed how difficult it was to find a way around the expensive hepatitis C drugs, but told Brookings moderator Louise Sheiner that “as long as I had the ability to have this role and to fight for the people of my state, and my Governor, we were not going to take ‘No.’ We were going to fix this problem.”

“The goal,” Dr. Gee added, "is to treat everybody with this virus.”

About 90,000 people in Louisiana have viral positives for hepatitis C and in the Medicaid program, there’s about 37,000.

The event drew media attention for the focus on prescription drug prices, which is a topic the U.S. Congress is expected to take up in September.

The Washington Times reported that Neeraj Sood, a University of Southern California professor of public policy, told the panel that Louisiana’s idea is to “give these profits upfront to the pharmaceutical firm but also dramatically improve access because price is not a barrier.”

The Baton Rouge Advocate wrote that Dr. Gee said during the panel discussion that the focus was in helping Medicaid recipients and prisoners at risk of dying of the disease.

These are vulnerable populations,” The Advocate quoted Dr. Gee as saying. “We have to think outside the box."

And The Center Square noted that Dr. gee considered the subscription model a "win-win" that will "provide unlimited access of the drug to prisoners and Medicaid recipients at a cost of up to $58 million, which is about what the state spent last fiscal year to treat far fewer people with the same drug."

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