Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapies have simplified HCV treatment, and publicly funded Canadian drug plans have eliminated disease-stage restrictions for reimbursement of DAA therapies. However other policies which complicate, delay, or prevent treatment initiation still persist. A study, published in the Canadian Liver Journal, described these plans’ existing reimbursement criteria and appraised whether they hinder treatment access.
Researchers reviewed DAA reimbursement policies of 16 publicly funded drug plans published online and provided by contacts with in-depth knowledge of prescribing criteria. Data were collected from May to July 2022. Primary outcomes were: (1) if plans have arranged to accept point-of-care HCV RNA testing for diagnosis; testing requirements for (2) HCV genotype, (3) fibrosis stage, and (4) chronic infection; (5) time taken and method used to approve reimbursement requests; (6) providers eligible to prescribe DAAs; and (7) restrictions on re-treatment.
Researchers found that 15 (94%) plans have at least one policy in place which limits simplified HCV treatment. Many plans continue to require results of genotype or fibrosis staging, limit eligible prescribers, and take longer than 1 day to approve coverage requests. One plan discourages treatment for re-infection.
Reimbursement criteria set by publicly funded Canadian drug plans continue to limit timely, equitable access to HCV treatment. Eliminating clinically irrelevant pre-authorization testing, expanding eligible prescribers, expediting claims processing, and broadening coverage of treatment for reinfection will improve access to DAAs. The federal government could further enhance efforts by introducing a federal HCV elimination strategy or federal high-cost drug PharmaCare program.
Access full study results here.