State settles Medicaid suit over cystic fibrosis drug | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 6, 2015

State settles Medicaid suit over cystic fibrosis drug

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 12:05 PM

The state Medicaid office has settled a federal lawsuit brought by three cystic fibrosis patients who were denied the drug Kalydeco because of cost, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. 

Catherine Kiger, Elizabeth West and Chloe Jones filed the suit, Kiger v. Selig et al, last year saying the state had violated their civil rights for two years by denying them the drug.   was filed Thursday in federal court in Fayetteville.

Kate Luck, a spokesperson for the state Department of Human Services, said the settlement involved no monetary awards, but the state, which changed its criteria for eligibility for the drug prior to the settlement, has agreed not to change those criteria for two years. Should the state deny the drug to a Medicaid patient, it must provide the court reasons why and the court may  jurisdiction over the state's decision. ask the state "to outline the reasons for denial," Krell said. 

The courts do not have jurisdiction over the decision. The only thing they can do is ask us to outline the reasons for denial.

The state previously had required the patients to prove that less expensive therapies had failed to work and,   according to the WSJ, "patients seeking to have their prescriptions reauthorized by Arkansas Medicaid were required to prove they had better lung function, weight gain and fewer hospitalizations with the drug."

The state no longer requires the patients to use the standard therapy (Pulmozyme and hypertonic saline) for 12 months before being considered for Kalydeco or to show evidence of failure on the standard therapy, Luck said. She said the studies were "made in response to more recent studies that were released on the drug. Arkansas has covered Kalydeco since 2012 and approved its first patient for coverage in 2013."

The manufacturer of Kalydeco, Vertex, of Boston, had declined to provide the drug free through its patient-assistance program. The drug targets a specific genetic cause of CF, and Luck said the state estimates that only seven CF patients in the state Medicaid program whose disease is caused by the particular gene mutation. While Luck said the denials were not "necessarily because of cost," she added that that the drug is "very expensive" and a "lifetime drug."

The annual wholesale cost of the drug is $311,000, according to the WSJ.

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