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Matt Salo Discusses How Medicaid Handles the Cost of Hepatitis C Drugs

Medicaid programs provide hepatitis C treatments to needy patients despite the high price, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. He is optimistic that having more manufacturers in the market will bring costs down and make treatment more accessible for all.


Medicaid programs provide hepatitis C treatments to needy patients despite the high price, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. He is optimistic that having more manufacturers in the market will bring costs down and make treatment more accessible for all.

Transcript (slightly modified)

How are state Medicaid directors handling the high costs of hepatitis C treatments?

So the hepatitis C issue remains a really important one. Since the beginning, we’ve been struggling with the fact that on the positive side, here we have at long last an actual treatment that looks like it’s going to be a cure for a pervasive public health threat. Great news. On the other hand though is the challenge that it has literally been priced out of the reach of so many Americans who need access to it.

What Medicaid programs have been doing is first of all trying to see how can we, and how low can we, bring that price down, and can we get it to a price that is affordable, that is sustainable, and that does allow us to cover everybody. And the experience has been that we’ve been able to make some progress, but we haven’t been able to get all the way there. So what states have been doing is building in policies and protocols to ensure that, so long as these drugs still remain unaffordable on a mass scale, how do we prioritize? How do we make sure that the people who need it the most get the first priority and that the dollars are being wisely spent? And that we’re really focused on things like medication adherence, and making sure that a very complex, heterogeneous Medicaid population is getting the maximum benefit out of this possible.

I think the developments recently are that we do now have more than one manufacturer in the market. We actually have three. And that is really promising in terms of its potential to be able to bring those prices down significantly. The Merck product is just now getting into the bloodstream, so to speak, so it’s a little premature to say, problem solved. But I think it’s really promising and I think that, you know, a couple of years down the line, we’re certainly going to see a much, much better scenario in terms of lower prices and increased access for everybody.

 
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