The new proposed California budget -- released on Friday by Governor Jerry Brown -- sets aside roughly $300 million for high-cost drugs, particularly for the treatment of Hepatitis C.
But only a few thousand people may benefit.
The state says each drug regimen for Hepatitis C runs about $85,000. It says there are thousands of people in California prisons and in the Medi-Cal program who need the treatment.
Dr. Rena Fox at the University of California at San Francisco says she’s thrilled the state is making the drugs available.
But she says only a fraction of Hep C patients benefit because of the prices pharmaceutical companies charge for the drugs.
"The cost of the drugs is now making them unattainable for the majority of patients, so whether it’s a private insurance company, or a public payer, very few payers will be able to cover the cost of all of the patients in our entire country," says Fox.
Pharmaceutical companies say the drugs offer excellent value, curing 90 percent of Hep C patients.