The state of Illinois has backed off a 2-year-old policy that allowed only its sickest residents with hepatitis C who rely on the traditional Medicaid program to get disease-curing drugs.The policy change, announced Friday evening, means Illinois residents on Medicaid with stage 3 liver scarring — not just the sickest patients with stage 4 liver scarring — will be able to access the drugs. If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, cancer and even death.

At least 12,000 Illinoisans covered by Medicaid had been diagnosed with hepatitis C as of last year, according to the state.The disease is transmitted primarily through blood contact, meaning drug users who share needles are at risk, as are those who get tattoos in nonsterile conditions and anyone who got a blood transfusion before 1992, when screening of the blood supply began.

A number of other states already relaxed their rules in response to pressure from …
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Illinois to expand access to hepatitis C drugs, but not all Medicaid patients qualify – Chicago Tribune