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Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, speaks about free Hepatitis C screenings to be given out at Walmart stores.

Rebekah Gee, the head of Louisiana’s health department, was recognized by a New York Times columnist as one of five people who “spread hope in 2019” for her work spearheading an innovative deal to pay for hepatitis C treatment in an effort to eradicate the disease in Louisiana.

Gee’s health department struck a “Netflix-style” deal with Asegua Therapeutics, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Gilead, whereby the state pays about $58 million a year for unlimited access to Hep C drugs. Medicaid patients and people in the state’s prison system get the drug free through the arrangement.

“Everyone talks about bringing down drug prices. But the power of the pharmaceutical industry has staved off reforms — except this one,” Tina Rosenberg, of the Times, wrote.

Hep C drugs usually cost $24,000 for a 12-week treatment, which cures nearly all patients who have the disease. Louisiana hopes to treat 10,000 people by the end of 2020 and at least 30,000 by 2024.

The other four people highlighted by the New York Times’ Fixes column were Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program; Kimberly McGrath, who works with trafficked children; Dr. Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist working on depression treatment; and Phil Keisling, head of the Vote at Home Institute.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com