Potentially good news for veterans living with chronic liver disease: An emergency highway funding bill will authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to spend an additional $500 million on treatments for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) through October 2015, Bloomberg reports.
The new influx of VA funding, which was approved by both Congress and President Obama, can be used to cover Gilead Science’s Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) treatments, as well as AbbVie’s Viekira Pak (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir; dasabuvir) for eligible veterans.
The money is part of a $3.35 billon package authorized for the Veterans Choice Fund to help cover the cost of private health care for veterans. Earlier this year, the agency ran out of money for hep C treatment and was looking for options like this to ensure more veterans could be treated under its programs.
However, the VA’s decision to outsource its hep C care in this way has recently sparked controversy among HCV advocates, who warn that the move—and its somewhat restrictive care policies—could actually have the potential to severely limit the number of veterans determined eligible HCV treatment.
Today, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 U.S. veterans are living with hep C. In 2014, 16,000 veterans got HCV treatment through VA medical centers, but only eight were approved for treatment under its Choice plan.
The VA is already setting up funds to cure an additional 11,394 veterans in 2016, which will cost the agency an estimated $690 million.