Public health officials, elected leaders and medical professionals across New York State gathered in Albany, New York on February 7, 2017 to discuss hepatitis C in the state for the first ever New York State hepatitis C virus (HCV) summit. In a consensus statement, the committee that organized the summit called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to commit to ending HCV in New York State. HCV afflicts over 200,000 people in New York State and has garnered increased attention as deaths due to HCV have surpassed those of HIV nationally. New York State has been a leader in addressing barriers to access to expensive HCV medications imposed by private and Medicaid insurers.
Between September and mid-December of 2016, working groups met to discuss five focus areas: prevention; testing and linkage; care and treatment access; data, surveillance and metrics; and social determinants of health. CHERISH Director Dr. Bruce Schackman served as co-chair of the surveillance, data and metrics working group along with Dr. Denis Nash, the executive director of the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. Dr. Nash presented the group’s recommendations to “enhance New York State HCV surveillance, set and track HCV elimination targets and make this information available to the public.”
All working groups echoed the need for improved HCV testing and linkage to care as well as improved access to consistent and appropriate care. About 40% of those who have chronic HCV in New York City are unaware of their status and of those who are aware, only 22% have received treatment and 14% have been cured. If left untreated HCV can lead to liver cirrhosis hepatocellular carcinoma and death. According to Jason Helgerson the New York State Medicaid Director, “New York State Medicaid spending per HCV treatment is down to $68,000.” This suggests that treatment costs may be responding to increased competition and it is important to direct efforts towards increasing access to cost-effective treatments.