JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri’s Medicaid program has a found a way to lower the astronomical price tag for drugs used to treat low-income patients with hepatitis C.
The state has teamed with 24 other states to negotiate a lower price for a medication called Viekira Pak.
The drug’s maker, AbbVie of North Chicago, Ill., agreed to provide an extra 20 percent to 30 percent rebate to the participating states, Jennifer Tidball, a top official at the Missouri Department of Social Services, told a House committee Tuesday.
As a result, Missouri has told doctors to prescribe Viekira Pak for Medicaid patients instead of Sovaldi, which was costing the state about $87,000 for a 12-week dose.
Joe Parks, Missouri’s Medicaid chief, said the exact drug pricing was “proprietary” and thus, confidential. But overall, the state expects to save $4.2 million next year from the switch, according to a statement from the department. Medicaid patients who have already begun treatment with Sovaldi will continue to use it, the department said. Patients who have been approved for Sovaldi as of Jan. 1 but have not yet started treatment will be switched to Viekira.
Parks said about 300 Medicaid patients are now on the 12-week treatment.
Hepatitis C is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver and is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. It is most often transmitted by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parks said Missouri requires patients to be sober for 90 days before beginning treatment. He said they must pass a drug and alcohol test because “drug use, particularly alcohol, can cause damage to your liver, which causes some of the same lab changes. And until they’re sober, you don’t know if that current active liver damage is due to the drugs or due to the hepatitis.”
The 25-state purchasing consortium signed its agreement with AbbVie last week.
Because the rebates take six months to show up in state coffers, Missouri won’t see the savings immediately.
Gov. Jay Nixon is still asking the Legislature for $20 million — $12.6 million in federal funds and $7.4 million in state general revenue — to cover the unexpected costs of Sovaldi during the current fiscal year.
Sovaldi’s $20 million price tag is part of Nixon’s request for an extra $96.3 million — including $27.4 million in state funds — for Medicaid prescription drugs this year. The fiscal year runs through June 30.