The B.C. Ministry of Health is taking too long to add effective, yet expensive, hepatitis B treatments to the Fair Pharmacare catalogue, said Tung Chan, CEO of the non-profit group S.U.C.C.E.S.S., yesterday.

“We are now going backwards,” Chan said about Pharmacare’s request that the Common Drug Review (CDR), the federal body for recommending drugs for publicly funded drug programs, perform another review of antiviral drug Hepsera, before it is accepted in the B.C. drug program.

Pharmacare decided not to accept Hepsera in 2006, on the advice of an earlier review by the CDR.


The new review will centre on Hepsera’s ability to treat patients who have developed a resistance to a currently approved hepatitis B treatment, Heptovir. A spokesperson for health services said the results are expected in September.

But Eric Yoshida, head of gastroenterology at the University of B.C. hospital, said Canadian and American experts already agree that Hepsera is “does what it’s supposed to do.”

“The problem is that it costs $500 a month, and Pharmacare doesn’t cover it,” he added.

Another drug to treat hepatitis, Pegasys, has been under review by Pharmacare for 20 months, Yoshida said.

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