I-Team: Viewer Helps Woman Denied Lifesaving Hepatitis C Drug

HANOVER (CBS)- Nichole, a 25-year-old living with Hepatitis C, was desperate when she reached out to WBZ-TV.

“A week ago, I didn’t feel any hope,” she told the I-Team.

She had been struggling with the disease since she was abducted four years ago. The fatigue and jaundice, plus the stigma made it hard to get on with her life.

Making matters worse, the man who victimized her had received a life-saving cure in prison.

Nichole was left only with multiple denial letters from her insurance company, Tufts Health Plan.

“Aside from the physical, emotionally, this has been horrible,” she told WBZ in January.

Hepatitis C medication Harvoni (WBZ-TV)

Hepatitis C medication Harvoni (WBZ-TV)

The drug Harvoni made by Gilead has a 95-percent cure rate for Hepatitis.

Nichole’s doctor prescribed it saying she was a perfect candidate. It would help rid her of the disease and move on. However, a full treatment of Harvoni is priced at a whopping $84,000. That’s $1,000 per pill.

Tufts Health Plan denied Nichole coverage of the drug, saying she isn’t sick enough yet.

“The insurance company wants me to be in Stage 3 liver scarring,” she said.

Four denial letters meant Nichole would have to wait for her cure.

Then, Mark Janian, the Chief Commercial Officer at AllCare Plus Specialty Pharmacy, saw the story on WBZ-TV. It touched a nerve.

“Putting myself in the shoes of a father with three kids, disbelief, shock, sad, upset,” he said.

He also knew that Nichole is just one of many patients in Massachusetts who are also denied the potentially life-saving treatment.

“I saw the story and I know that this is something our patients face on a daily basis,” he said.

Mark reached out to WBZ and we put him in touch with Nichole.

He made a few calls to his contacts at Abbvie, a drug maker with a competing medication called Viekira Pak. Within hours, he had secured an expensive medication with an equally high cure rate for free.

Nichole said she cried when she heard the news. It feels like a second chance.

“I just want to thank everybody who helped out and thank you for sharing my story,” she said. “I didn’t think that I would be able to move on from what happened to me and this is a gift that I will never forget.”

She has made a pledge to fight for others who don’t have access to the treatments.

The pricing of Harvoni and Gilead’s other hepatitis medication Sovaldi have been controversial.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently sent a letter to Gilead accusing them of price gouging and threatening legal action unless they take steps to make the medication more affordable for consumers.

In her letter, she mentions that the same medication sells for just $10 a pill in other parts of the world.

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