Philadelphia’s hepatitis C community has a breakthrough to celebrate this World Hepatitis Day: In January, Pennsylvania opened up access for more hepatitis C patients to receive the life-saving drugs that hit the market over five years ago. Because of the cost of the drugs, Medicaid was denying access for patients whose livers weren’t in bad enough shape or didn’t abstain from alcohol or drugs.
Now, Medicaid patients in the state can get the eight to 24-week treatment, no matter their liver status or drug and alcohol use. It was a big win for patients, clinicians, and the public health officials in the city and beyond who advocated for expanded access to direct-acting antiviral drugs—which have a 95 percent cure rate.
“That’s something I think as a community we should be really proud of and grateful for,” said Stacey Trooskin, the director of Viral Hepatitis Programs at Philadelphia FIGHT, a health services nonprofit, who also serves as a clinical assistant professor of medicine in the division of Infectious Diseases at Penn Medicine, and the community co-chair of the Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia (HepCAP).
But the fight is far from over. Today, nearly 53,000 Philadelphians are living with hepatitis C, and only about half of them know it. Testing and connecting patients to care are among the toughest battles, along with the rise in new infections, which has ties to the opioid epidemic.
Aware of the challenges and needs of the community, experts in Philadelphia have set the city on a path toward eliminating the virus. Non-profits, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and clinical care providers like Penn Medicine are working together to help make this a reality by improving care and access to testing and education for vulnerable populations.
“We have the cure,” Trooskin said. “Now the question is, how do we deliver it in the most effective way?”
The Penn Medicine News Blog talked with Trooskin to learn more about the challenges the city—and country—face, her roles in this fight, and what people should focus on this World Hepatitis Day, which falls on July 28.
The original article was posted on the Penn Medicine News Blog.