Advocates Praise AG Deal to Increase Hepatitis C Drug Coverage, Demand End to Illegal Medicaid Treatment Restrictions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 26, 2016

Contact: Matt Curtis, 646-234-9062, matt@vocal-ny.org

Mika de Roo, 347-473-7436, m.deroo@housingworks.org

Advocates Praise Attorney General’s Deal to Increase Hepatitis C Drug Coverage, Demand End to Illegal Medicaid Treatment Restrictions

Continue to Call on Gilead and other Drug Manufacturers to Lower Unethically High Hepatitis Drug Prices

NEW YORK, NY – Today people living with hepatitis C and healthcare advocates lauded New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s settlement with seven private insurance companies, and called for immediate action to end restrictions imposed by NYS Medicaid. Hepatitis C affects at least 250,000 New Yorkers, is the leading cause of serious liver disease, and kills about the same number of people as AIDS each year.

“This action by the Attorney General gives hope to tens of thousands of people like me who have been denied treatment for this life threatening disease,” said Elizabeth Owens, a community organizer at VOCAL New York who was denied coverage by a private insurer earlier this year. “But it’s a complete injustice that Medicaid continues to impose the same illegal restrictions on the poorest New Yorkers. We hope that Attorney General Schneiderman will sue the State to protect poor people’s lives.”

“It is imperative that New York State and all health insurance programs make hepatitis C treatment readily available without restriction,” said Charles King, President of Housing Works and co-chair of the Ending the AIDS Epidemic Task Force established by Governor Cuomo.  “It is also time for drug companies like Gilead to reduce their prices so that the State can afford to treat every New Yorker living with HCV. Eliminating hepatitis C infection is well within our reach, and making treatment readily available to all who need it is not only the right thing to do morally, but it is also in keeping with basic principles of public health. Furthermore, a significant number of people living with HIV are co-infected with HCV. Making HCV treatment readily available to all who need it will also continue us on the right path to an AIDS-FREE New York by the year 2020.”

On Wednesday, dozens of activists will attend the NY Medicaid Drug Utilization Review Board meeting in Albany, where the body will again review coverage restrictions in place since 2014. To date, NY Medicaid has denied drug coverage to people with hepatitis C if they do not have advanced liver disease or use alcohol or illegal drugs. The leading medical societies have repeatedly advised that these restrictions contravene scientific evidence and should be abandoned.

Hepatitis C Testimony and Action at NYS Medicaid Drug Utilization Review Board

WHEN: Wednesday, April 27, 9:15 am

WHERE: Meeting Room 6, Concourse, Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York

WHAT: Approximately 60 people living with Hepatitis C and allies will testify and take action to demand unrestricted access to the cure for Medicaid beneficiaries.

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