Medicaid officials want to expand access to pricey hepatitis C drug

Health care officials in Washington state thought thousands of Medicaid patients would line up to receive a breakthrough hepatitis C treatment that went on the market late last year.

Yet by June, the state had treated only a third as many hepatitis C patients as it had planned for — about 1,200 people.

Now, the state’s Medicaid authority wants to use the $44 million it didn’t spend over the past year to start covering the drug for a wider range of patients, instead of just the sickest ones.

State officials estimate about 75,000 to 100,000 people in Washington have hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver failure or liver cancer if left untreated. Nationwide, many people living with the disease are low-income patients who are eligible for Medicaid, officials said.

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