04/01/2015 12:24 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan covers cost of new hepatitis C drugs at a cost of up to $10 million

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government says it will now provide new drug coverage for hepatitis C — a viral disease that affects the liver.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan says the new drugs, Harvoni and Sovaldi, are better tolerated by patients than other therapies.

The drugs are said to cure 90 to 98 per cent of patients in as little as eight to 12 weeks.

The government expects to provide coverage for about 1,100 patients over the next three years who meet the criteria for these therapies.

The cost will be up to $10 million in the first year.

Dr. Stephen Sanche of the Royal University Hospital praised the government's decision.

“These medications will offer our patients a substantially greater chance of cure with fewer side effects and shorter treatment courses," he said in a release Wednesday.

The healthy ministry says the effects of the virus range in severity from a mild illness to a serious, chronic illness, including liver scarring and liver cancer.

The disease is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person.