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Hepatitis Treatment is Elusive for Millions Worldwide

Hepatitis stands alongside the worldwide scourges of HIV and AIDS in the realm of infectious-disease. However, high drug costs and hepatitis treatment limitations interfere with its eradication, one study states.

Many world governments, among them India, South Africa, and Egypt have set 2030 as the date by which they hope to have reduced new cases of Hepatitis B and C by 90% and deaths from the disease by 65%.

The policy statements are bold; yet efforts to achieve the goals are weak, hindered largely by a lack of funding for what are expensive treatment regimens, and overcoming the social stigma of reporting the condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) states.

Hepatitis B and C are both contagious diseases that are transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.  Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in the year 2015, as many as HIV and AIDS. The WHO estimates a staggering 325 million people have contracted the hepatitis virus, but that a mere 9% of Hepatitis B and 20% of Hepatitis C patients have been diagnosed.

Some advocates for hepatitis treatment and eradication state the cost of drugs to treat the condition cannot be used as an excuse for failing to provide universal opportunities for access to potentially life-saving diagnoses and medications.“We believe that price has been used as an excuse not to provide access,” Homie Razavi says. He is associated with the Center for Disease Analysis, one entity now studying diseases that are poorly understood. The BMJ published the study online on July 28, 2017.

A 2015 WHO study directly linked a hepatitis treatment regimen to drug costs, however, calling medication expense a “major barrier”. The study cites the 2014 cost of one American receiving one hepatitis treatment drug, called sofosbuvir at $90,000USD, for one British patient:  $45,475USD; and for one French patient: $48,225USD.

The introduction of some generic Hepatitis C drugs has helped the matter somewhat, the study states, although the few manufactured varieties available, along with drug-registration problems, has slowed the access and accessibility pipeline.

Razavi also says he wonders why representatives of the 28 developing nations the WHO studied, where the bulk of hepatitis-affected people live, have yet to come forward to participate in the Global Procurement Fund. The fund, which the Center for Disease Analysis Foundation started in April 2017, combines smaller drug orders from many such nations into large ones with the aim to buy great quantities at reduced prices. And he also chides economically developed nations for not undertaking more funding responsibilities to assist less fortunate countries with their diagnosis-and-treatment programs.

The study provides a compelling argument to promote greater access to hepatitis treatment. It calls for work in preventive-education, access, diagnosis, treatment, and hopefully, a cure for the disease.

Written by Susan Mercer Hinrichs, MA, MBA, CPhT

Reference: Too few people have access to tests and treatment for hepatitis, says WHO

Author: Sophie Cousins, Kathmandu

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