Cost of Hepatitis C treatment could drop as much as 99 per cent by yearend

A stethoscope. - DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

PUTRAJAYA: The cost of treatment for Hepatitis C in the country will soon be as low as RM500, to make it more accessible to the patients, reported Bernama yesterday.

Currently, the cost of treatment for Hepatitis C is about RM50,000, making it less accessible to patients.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam said yesterday the Cabinet had approved the use of Rights of Government under Patent Act 1983 (Act 291) by exploiting the patented invention of Sofosbuvir tablet 400mg, where the cost of treatment will be lower and more patients can be treated.

“Hepatitis C has become a major public health concern in Malaysia therefore it is crucial to increase access to its treatment for the benefit of the nation,” he told reporters at the Health Ministry here.

Dr Subramaniam said the decision to initiate the Rights of Government was made after the ministry’s efforts to be included in the Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) and price negotiations with the patent holder were unsuccessful.

He emphasised that the procurement of the 400mg Sofosbuvir tablet would be in accordance with current government procurement procedures.

The implementation of the Rights of Government for the 400mg Sofosbuvir tablet was for use in government facilities only namely at Health Ministry and Armed Forces hospitals.

It is initially expected to only be offered at 12 Health Ministry hospitals by the end of the year. Criteria used to select patients for the treatment will follow the clinical guideline set by the clinical specialist, the minister said.

It is estimated there are about 500,000 patients in Malaysia infected with Hepatitis C with 2,000 new cases reported annually.

According to the World Health Organisation, Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus which can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

The Hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood such as through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.

An estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection worldwide, of which a significant number will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Approximately 399,000 people die annually from Hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

While antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 per cent of people infected with Hepatitis C, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C although research in this area is ongoing.