New UH gastroenterologist helps patients navigate insurance coverage for new breakthrough treatments for hepatitis C, IBD
UH Clinical Update - August 2018
Treatments for hepatitis C have evolved rapidly in the past few years, with two new medications achieving prominence in the last year – Mavyret and Epclusa.
“In patients without severe liver disease, these medications may potentially cure more than 95 percent of hepatitis C cases,” says University Hospitals gastroenterologist Jason Abdallah, MD, who recently joined the medical staff at UH Geauga Medical Center. “Not only are these medications highly effective, they are also very well tolerated and treat all types of hepatitis C virus.”
However, these drugs remain quite costly and require close coordination with a patient’s insurance company in order to secure coverage.
Dr. Abdallah says he’s up for the challenge.
“It requires close collaboration with the Specialty Pharmacy staff here at UH and also with the insurance company,” he says. “These medications usually require prior authorization and additional steps before final approval. By following current guidelines and care standards, hepatology-trained physicians can get these approved for the right group of patients to decrease all-cause mortality and liver-related complications.”
Dr. Abdallah earned his medical degree at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. He completed both his residency training in internal medicine and fellowship training in gastroenterology at MetroHealth Medical Center.
Although he’s been with UH only a short time, he says he’s pleased with his choice to join the medical staff here.
“I was looking for the hybrid model in which I could support the patients in our community while having the culture and support of a major academic institution,” he says. “It’s exactly the kind of culture I was hoping for out of fellowship.”
In addition to the new treatments available for hepatitis C, Dr. Abdallah says he’s also enthusiastic about new medications to treat inflammatory bowel disease and what they can mean for patients struggling with unpleasant and debilitating symptoms.
“A major component of GI is in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease,” he says. “There have been new medications in the last three to four years that have been approved to treat severe IBD, with lower subsequent risks of infections and cancer down the line. Stelara, a medication which has traditionally been used to treat plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, was recently approved to treat Crohn’s disease, and it appears to be safe compared to other advanced treatments for IBD. It also comes with the convenience of bi-monthly self-administered subcutaneous injections. Entyvio is only approved for IBD, and it works primarily in the GI tract, so there are less side effects and lower chance of severe infections. I anticipate the use of these medications to significantly increase in the near future.”
Dr. Abdallah says he expects similar developments to occur in the next year in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“New medications are also in the pipeline for treating liver disease related to diabetes and obesity, namely non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” he says. “It’s going to be exciting to see how that evolves in the next year. Currently, there are no widely recommended treatments for this condition, other than weight loss and treatment cardiovascular risk factors.”
As he establishes his practice at UH Geauga Medical Center, Dr. Abdallah says he is taking a deliberate, collaborative approach with his patients.
“As a specialist, I spend a significant amount of time with the patient in order to really understand the history of disease,” he says. “The patient story is the most important component of disease diagnosis. I also review recent imaging, labs and previous endoscopies and answer any questions as this increases with their compliance with treatment. My role is to provide patients with all of the pertinent information so that they are able to make an informed decision about their care.”
For more information about Dr. Abdallah or to refer a patient, please call 440-285-2956.