President Joe Biden’s recently released budget proposal for fiscal year 2024 would earmark more than $11 billion for the eradication of Hepatitis C.
The National Hepatitis C Elimination Program, the brainchild of White House science advisor and former Director of the National Institutes for Health Dr. Francis Collins, could finally solve America’s hepatitis C paradox.
Breaking Down Barriers
Hepatitis C has been curable for years but has gone uncured in most cases because of senseless policy barriers that prevent patients from getting tested, treated and connected to care. More than 2 million Americans still live with the virus, 40% of whom go undiagnosed. Though some states are stepping up to meet patients’ needs, nationally the problem persists.
The president’s proposed elimination program would lower patients’ barriers to access, first through an innovative drug subscription arrangement. Under this so-called “Netflix model,” pioneered in Louisiana, the federal government would pay antiviral manufacturers a flat fee to procure access to an unlimited quantity of doses.
The new program would also expand access to screening, testing and patient monitoring — especially among at-risk populations in prisons and places where needle sharing is common. There will also be particular efforts to reach children of mothers who have hepatitis C, as the disease can be transmitted through pregnancy.
Operational details about the program are still being developed. But now that the president’s budget has been released, it’s up to Congress to fund it. Given that the virus costs Americans an estimated $8 billion every year, an $11 billion investment over ten years to cure the disease altogether would be just as fiscally prudent as medically transformative.
The National Hepatitis C Elimination Program and its funding are not over the finish line on Capitol Hill yet. But its inclusion and full funding in the president’s budget is a huge step toward ending the threat of this fatal disease and saving millions of lives, soon.