Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pakistan asked to declare hepatitis emergency

Pakistan asked to declare hepatitis emergency
By Imran Ali Teepu

WASHINGTON: On the sidelines of the American Association of Liver Disease (AASLD) conference, a number of international researchers and physicians asserted on Pakistan’s health officials to declare hepatitis emergency in country as over 9.4 million hepatitis-C patients suffers from the deadly disease.

The AASLD concluded here in downtown DC the other day. At the concluding session the physicians specially took interest in the launch of two drugs – Sofusbivir and Simeprevir.

The two new treatments for hepatitis C are to be released in December 2013. Both the drugs extremely promising but the obstacles to their use in Pakistan and other developing countries would be their cost.

Talking to Daily Times Dr Abdul Nadir, internist/geriatrician in Phoenix, said that the cost of the two new agents, Sofusbivir and Simeprevir, for complete course of treatment of one patient has been estimated at over $ 60,000, clearly beyond the reach of even more fortunate Pakistani citizens.

However, he said: “The most common genotype of hepatitis C in Pakistan is III and one poster presented in AASLD reported that 60 percent to 90percent of patients achieved cure for HCV-genotype III (genetic structure of hepatitis C virus) after completing a 24-week course of Sofusbivir based oral treatment.”

He said that treatment does not require the use of interferon injections and thus has very few side effects and no resistance to the virus was identified either.

The outcome of treatment was best for those with milder form of liver disease compared to those who had advanced liver disease called cirrhosis.

He added that the basic ingredients of new HCV medications can be made quite simply and Pakistani scientists are capable to manufacture affordable, new and extremely potent HCV medications for their public.

Dr Andrew Hill, a PhD and a researcher based at the Pharmacology Research Lab Liverpool, United Kingdom told Daily Time, “Most of the hepatitis C patients almost 9.4 million are from low and middle class earning groups as per a research.”

He said that either Pakistan health authorities can negotiate an affordable price for the oral HCV medications or if that is not possible, Pakistan can declare a hepatitis emergency and start making these medicines through there own pharmaceutical industry.

According to data shared by researchers at the conference Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) treatment was made available to general public in India and Brazil by making locally manufactured HIV drugs to their population.

It is worth noting that Pakistan’s federal government has almost abolished its Liver Transplant Centre established in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and has done little on the internal medicine side.

The transplant centre was established with a cost of Rs200 million during the tenure of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and opened in June 2011. But within one year’s time soon after failure of first liver transplant in 2012, the centre was closed which highlighted bad public health planning on part of the federal government.

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