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Hepatitis C – How It May Affect Your Group Benefit Plan

Hepatitis C is a liver disease. This virus may be acquired through heroin use, blood transfusions, tattooing or acupuncture. Approximately 25% to 35% of patients clear the virus from their body naturally. Chronic Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis or cancer. Currently, there is no vaccine.

Many infected people do not know they have the virus because symptoms may not show for 10 to 30 years. During this time, the virus can be spread to others via blood contact. In Canada, an estimated 300,000 individuals are infected. The Canadian Liver Foundation is recommending that anyone born between 1945 and 1975 be tested for Hepatitis C.

In the past, standard treatments had a 50% cure rate and side effects were so severe that you could not work during the 48 weeks of treatment. New drugs are now available that have fewer side effects, are 90% effective and treatment can be completed in 12 to 24 weeks.

The launch of these new therapies will cause an impact on drug claims experience as many Hepatitis C patients waited for the new treatment. The cost of the new treatment is between $50,000 and $150,000 per patient.

In May, we will be attending a seminar regarding the Trillium Drug plan and how it integrates with private health plans. While the patent cliff and generic price reforms have led to lower drug spending than in the past, the ‘biologic wave’ is about to hit, and you need to be prepared for it. Look for our update on the Trillium Drug plan in our next edition of “The Learning Centre”.