Canada: Ontario approves second costly drug for hepatitis C

With provincial approval of a second costly drug that can cure hepatitis C, Ottawa liver specialist Dr. Curtis Cooper is now expecting to see thousands of his patients cured of the disease that, without treatment, had the potential to destroy their lives.

The Ontario government agreed this week to pay for the drug Holkira Pak which, pharmaceutical company AbbVie says had a 97 per cent cure rate in genotype 1 hepatitis C patients during clinical trials. It is the second hepatitis C drug the province has approved this year under the Ontario Drug Benefit exceptional access program. Earlier,the province agreed to pay for the drug Harvoni, which has a similar high cure rate for hepatitis C.

Both drugs cost in the $50,000 to $60,000 range, or more, which, until the province approved them, meant they were out of reach to most patients. Unlike previous treatments for hepatitis C, the drugs are easy to take in daily pill form, are well tolerated by patients and cure the disease in the vast majority of cases.

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