Canada is now one step closer to offering universal access to hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment, now that the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) has struck a major price deal with three leading HCV drugmakers on behalf of all of the country’s provinces, The Globe and Mail reports.

The pCPA, which negotiates pharmaceutical deals on behalf of all of Canada’s provincial and territorial public drug programs, announced in late February that it had reached an agreement with Gilead Sciences Canada, Merck Canada and Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada on hepatitis C treatment.

The deals facilitate major discounts on six next-generation HCV cures: Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), Daklinza (daclatasvir), Sunvepra (asunaprevir), Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir) and Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir). However, it remains unclear how much of a discount Canadian provinces may get on hepatitis C treatment, since pCPA never reveals the lower prices it negotiates with drug companies.

As a result of the agreement, British Columbia and Ontario have since agreed to begin covering treatment for all patients with chronic hepatitis C, regardless of the severity, by 2018. This is a major move forward from the provinces’ previous HCV treatment policies, which limited public funding of the drugs to patients with certain genotypes of hepatitis C and advanced liver scarring. 

Canadian HCV advocates say it is too early to say how many other Canadian provinces will follow British Columbia’s and Ontario’s lead. When the pCPA negotiates a deal for price reductions, each province has to decide or itself how to implement it into its own public health plans. 

Before discounts, hepatitis C treatment costs between $45,000 and $100,000 per patient in Canada, depending on the length and type of medication. An estimated 250,000 people in the country have hepatitis C. These price deals are likely to open up treatment access to tens of thousands of Canadians.