Pharmaceutical News
NHIA scraps the exit mechanism for new hepatitis C treatments

Reported by Chang Ming-Xuan

The NHIA made an announcement on the 3rd to further relax the reimbursement regulations on new hepatitis C drugs.  From this January, all hepatitis C patients are able to access the new treatments reimbursed by the NHI.  The NHIA also scrapped the exit mechanism under which continuous treatments are only available to patients whose virus volume has been reduced by 100 folds after 4 weeks of treatments. 

Hepatitis C used to be treated by the concomitant use of interferon and ribavirin.  However, the conventional treatment has severe side effects, such as fever, nausea, hair loss, etc.  The side effects have put many patients off receiving treatments; therefore, the success rate is just 70%.  The recently-launched new oral treatments have a cure rate of 95%; but each initial treatment course costs NT$2 million.

In order to reach the target of eradicating hepatitis C by 2025, the NHIA included the new oral drugs into the NHI Benefit Scheme 2 years ago and has successfully kept the cost under NT$250, 000 per treatment course.  Furthermore, the NHIA has been gradually relaxing the reimbursement regulations in the past 2 years.

Dr Chen Shi-Chung, the MOHW Minister, announced in November about the relaxation of the reimbursement regulations of new hepatitis C drugs so as to make the new treatments available to all hepatitis C patients.   The MOHW has also increased the hepatitis C treatment budget by 30%.

The new hepatitis C drugs used to be only available to hepatitis C patients with moderate to severe liver fibrosis.  The NHIA also established an exit mechanism which gives continuous treatments to those patients whose virus volume has been reduced by 100 folds after 4 weeks of treatments.   The exit mechanism is no longer in effect from January.

According to the NHIA’s data, the NHIA spent NT$2,200 on every patient for testing the virus volume against the exit criteria.  However, in 2017, only 28 out of the total 9583 patients were disqualified for continuous treatments.   The NHIA, therefore, decided to scrap the exit mechanism and extend the treatments to every hepatitis C patients.

【2019-01-03/ Central News Agency】