New Hep C drug priced out of reach of most patients
The earliest the medication could be available through BC Pharmacare is April 2012 with two more reviews to go through.
Despite approval by Health Canada, Boceprevir, a new drug that dramatically improves the effectiveness of standard hepatitis C treatments remains out of reach of most patients. Boceprevir (brand name Victrelis) is available at pharmacies at a price of $1,050 per week.
Given that the minimum recommended treatment period is 24 weeks, this means "it will remain out of reach of the majority of those who need it unless BC Pharmacare covers it," said Daryl Luster, chair of hepatitis C Global Initiatives, an advocacy group based in Vancouver. "The drug is now available for those who are very wealthy or have private insurance, but most will require assistance from Pharmacare [to get the drug] and the process for that is long," said Dr. Eric Yoshida, head of the BC Hepatitis Program.
Approval by Health Canada is just the first step, he said. The federal agency only assesses the safety and therapeutic effect of a drug and grants permission to market the drug in Canada. Provincial governments must now decide whether to include the drug in their Pharmacare programs.
To be included in BC Pharmacare, the drug needs to go through two more reviews. First, it needs a positive recommendation from the Common Drug Review - a national review process managed by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). As a second step, once a positive recommendation has been given, the B.C. Ministry of Health makes a Pharmacare coverage decision by considering Pharmacare policies, programs and resources and the evidence informed recommendations from the B.C. Drug Benefit Council (DBC).
The DBC's advice to the ministry is based upon a review of available clinical and pharmaco-economic evidence, clinical practice and ethical considerations, patient input, and the recommendations of the Common Drug Review, explained Brian Cotton, public affairs officer, B.C. Ministry of Health, in an email. The entire process, including the BC Pharmacare review, is expected to take at least 12 months. So the earliest Boceprevir could be available through Pharmacare in B.C. is April 2012. This may be too late.