ST. LOUIS – A life-saving medicine that cures hepatitis C will now be available to the thousands of Missouri Medicaid recipients suffering from the disease.
The decision to allow the medicine was permitted after litigation against the Missouri Department of Social Services (MDSS) brought by three Medicaid recipients represented by public interest law offices. The suit was filed in 2016 by the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), and the St. Louis University Legal Clinics.
MDSS has now changed their policy to allow the drugs.
“Missouri, like too many states, has failed to follow federal and state guidelines on providing their Medicaid beneficiaries with prompt access to Hep C treatment that we know cures this disease,” NHeLP Senior Attorney Abigail Coursolle said. “We are glad that Missouri health officials will start to ensure that Medicaid enrollees receive these medications in a timely manner. This therapy is not only medically necessary for the individual patient, but it is vital in helping to halt spread of a communicable disease.”
The medicine cures hepatitis C with an 8-week regimen.
“A medication which can totally cure a disease is a rare occurrence,” Dr. Bruce Bacon, co-director of the Saint Louis University Liver Center in the Division of Hepatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said. “We have hundreds of patients who have been waiting to get this medication for years, and now they will be cured.”
Dr. Bacon and his staff partnered with the three legal organizations to advocate for low-income Missourians with the disease.
Drug manufacturers have been producing new drugs that cure hepatitis C for several years, and major health insurers, as well as Medicare and the Veterans Administration have covered the drugs for anyone with hepatitis C. Now, in response to this lawsuit filed, MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, is paying for these drugs for all patients as well, effective November 1.
“Thousands of people will now have access to a cure for a serious, infectious disease. For these people and their families, the cure means an end to the worry of a future of liver disease and liver cancer and an end to daily pain and fatigue that comes with hepatitis C,” said Professor John Ammann, the McDonnell Professor of Justice in American Society and one of the lawyers representing the individuals bringing the suit.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.