Feds Worry That Low-Income People May Not Get Hepatitis Cure

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Confronting the consequences of high-priced drugs, the Obama administration Thursday pointedly reminded states that they cannot legally restrict access by low-income people to revolutionary cures for liver-wasting hepatitis C infection.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also sent letters to several drug manufacturers, requesting details of what they are doing to make their medications more affordable.

Hepatitis C is a viral illness that affects some 3 million people in the U.S. Patients say it feels like a bad flu that never goes away. While the disease advances gradually, it can ultimately destroy the liver, requiring a transplant to save the patient’s life.

In a notice to state Medicaid directors, the administration reminded states of their legal obligations to cover prescription medications for the poor.

Federal officials said they are concerned that some states are restricting access “contrary to … statutory requirements” by “unreasonably” imposing limitations on which patients can get the new drugs.