Medford, Ore. — Hepatitis C, a chronic viral infection that attacks the liver kills more people in Oregon each year than in the rest of the country altogether, but a new drug promises to not only help people who have the virus, it can actually eliminate it entirely. The only problem, treatment costs tens of thousands of dollars.
A Rogue Valley man who’s been battling Hepatitis C for 30 years and he desperately wants treatment, but high prices and an insurance company that classifies him as “not sick enough”, makes him unable to get help.
He says he’s only shared his diagnosis with close friends and family, because of that he asked us to keep his identity secret.
“I would physically feel better if it was gone.”
Back in the early 1990’s this man we’re calling John received a diagnosis that would change his life.
“Random doctors visit, yeah it was just a check up, blood test,” he says.
A blood test that came back positive for Hepatitis C. He believes he acquired the virus though sharing needles.
“I did some partying in the 80’s in new york and stuff,” says John. “There’s no way of telling when you contracted it, but that seems to be the most logical explanation.”
Now 30 years after his diagnosis, John’s never been treated and he’s not the only one.
Since 2005 more than 47,000 Hepatitis C infections have been reported in Oregon. According to the Oregon Health Authority, the term Hepatitis means most simply inflammation of the liver.
Dr. Peter Adesman, a Medford Gastroenterologist says a specific age group seems to be the most in danger.
” Those born between 1945 and 1965,” Adesman explains. John was born in 1964.
Despite the millions of Americans who have Hepatitis C, there wasn’t treatment, until now.
“Really hopeful, but then you find out what the sticker price is,” John says.
Introducing Sovaldi an anti-viral pill form treatment that totes great results, but costs more than $60,000, but it’s Harvoni that comes at the highest price tag. Over $100,000.
“I mean how much could this possibly cost them to manufacture,” John says. “To me it just kind of speaks to the greediness of the system.”
As Dr. Adesman explains, the high cost makes insurance companies leery of treating everyone with Hepatitis C.
“Almost all of the insurance plans have said we are going to restrict this to those that have more advanced liver disease.”
And according to John his insurance does not want to treat him.
“I mean in an ideal world we should be treating everybody and just eliminating this disease from existence,” says Adesman.
“It’s a big frustration knowing that there is something out there that could get this thing out of my body,” John says. “And my insurance company wont cover it.”