National study finds life-threatening barriers in access to breakthrough drugs

Most states violate federal Medicaid law because they deny coverage for sofosbuvir, a new and highly effective treatment to cure hepatitis C, according to Lynn E. Taylor, M.D., director of The Miriam Hospital's HIV/Viral Hepatitis Coinfection Program. Taylor's team of researchers examined Medicaid policies for hepatitis C virus treatment using sofosbuvir, more commonly known as Solvadi, and found that most should change policy to improve access to the treatment. The study and its findings were published online in advance of the August issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Hepatitis C virus affects over three million Americans. Worldwide, an estimated 120 to 150 million people have chronic hepatitis C. Left untreated, the infection can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Sofosbuvir is a highly effective pharmaceutical used in combination with other medications to cure the disease.

Taylor's research team, which included the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Treatment Action Group, Kirby Institute of Australia, and Brown University, found that most Medicaid coverage restrictions for sofosbuvir violate federal Medicaid law, which requires states to cover drugs consistent with their U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels.

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