What We're Reading: Washington Medicaid Program Must Lift HCV Restrictions

What we're reading, May 31, 2016: a federal judge ordered the Washington state Medicaid program to remove restrictions on hepatitis C virus medications; the trouble when drug prices are too low; and the World Health Organization will not consider postponing the Summer Olympics due to the Zika virus.

A federal judge has ordered the Washington state Medicaid program to lift restrictions on coverage of hepatitis C drugs. The judge agreed with the claim in a lawsuit from state residents that the drugs are medically necessary and providing coverage to only the sickest patients caused harm to other patients, reported STAT. There are more lawsuits against other state Medicaid programs planned, plus lawsuits pending against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, and the Massachusetts prison system.

High drug prices may get all the attention, but some drug prices are too low, which can contribute to drug shortages, wrote health economist Austin Frakt, PhD, for The New York Times’ blog The Upshot. Drugs that are prone to shortages are generic injectables, such as anticancer agents, anesthetics, and heart attack medicines. And when those drugs are in short supply, hospitals seek alternatives that are sometimes less familiar to doctors, do not work as well, or come with different side effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is not considering postponing or moving the Summer Olympics, to be held in Brazil, due to the Zika virus. According to AP, the WHO made its decision because a change in venue or time would make no difference to the spread of the virus. However, health experts who wrote to the WHO, noted that hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit Brazil, which has been significantly hit by the virus, and that the number of infections in Rio de Janeiro has gone up, not down, despite efforts. The public health experts warn that the increased number of people traveling to the games in Brazil will lead to more births of babies with brain damage.