Stage set for access to Hepatitis C treatment

KUALA LUMPUR: Twenty months after sofosbuvir, the generic Hepatitis C drug was brought into Malaysia through compulsory licensing, only some 4,500 patients have been treated, says the Health Ministry. It admitted that this initial stage of setting the stage for screening and treatment had been saddled with many challenges.

But a lot of the issues have been resolved and the number of patients to be screened and treated are expected to increase exponentially next year.

The process of getting laboratory support, coordinating with hospitals for patients to be treated and procurement that did not meet specifications were among the challenges they had faced, said the ministry’s National Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan.

“We have rectified the problems and we expect the number of patients screened and treated will increase markedly next year, ” he said in a dialogue between civil society organisations and the ministry in a multi-stakeholder forum on Hepatitis C here recently.

Besides the logistics issues, Dr Muhammad Radzi said that at the initial stage, there were fewer patients treated because many of them had liver cirrhosis and were treated in hospitals, which required more of the allocated medication.

But with the efforts to decentralise Hepatitis C screening and treatment this year, more were expected to be diagnosed and treated next year, he added.

“We will have screening and treatment in selected health clinics in every state beginning next year.”

Dr Muhammad Radzi said that with the decentralisation, the ministry would also provide clinics with rapid test kits for better access to screening. The rapid test is to test for Hepatitis C antibodies.

If tested positive, the patient would need another test to confirm if treatment is needed.

In total, he said the ministry and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), funded by Unitaid, had screened more than 50,000 high-risk people this year.

FIND, in collaboration with the ministry, had tested out and introduced the Hepatitis C rapid diagnostic test in one health clinic in December last year and in 25 health clinics starting March.

The programme had screened 15,148 patients and 2,031 patients were tested positive for Hepatitis C while 11,523 patients were screened during the ministry’s World Hepatitis Day one-week campaign in July and 220 patients were tested positive, said FIND HCV country project manager Sem Xiao Hui.

For the other cases (of the 50,000) while the rapid test was being studied, health clinics had taken blood samples and sent them to the hospitals or public health laboratories for testing.

In 2017, Universiti Malaya consultant hepatologist Prof Dr Rosmawati Mohamed said that more than 500,000 Malaysians aged between 15 and 60 were estimated to be infected with Hepatitis C, but 74% or 386,000 had active or persistent infection which required treatment.

In July 2017, The Star carried a front page story highlighting the plight of Malaysians who suffered from Hepatitis C as only a fraction could afford the medication that can cost up to RM300,000 for the full course of treatment.

Subsequently, the Cabinet gave approval to issue a government-use licence to enable the import of generic versions of the Hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir.


TAGS / KEYWORDS:Hepatitis C Drug , Health Ministry ,


Activist Guide to Hepatitis C Virus Diagnostic

We’re pleased to share the Activist Guide and training curriculum if you could share in your networks or on social media (TAG will have some tweets/FB posts that can be re-tweeted).
Happy Halloween! What’s scarier than government inaction and Pharma greed that prevents people from getting tested and accessing affordable hep C treatment?…NEW Activist Guide and training curriculum helps activists learn how to take back our diagnostics!

New Resource on Hepatitis C Diagnostics for Treatment Advocates

October 31, 2019 — We’ve just released a new Activist Guide to Hepatitis C Virus Diagnostics!

The purpose of the Activist Guide to Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Diagnostics is to provide information for you and your community. The Activist Guide aims to provide a deeper focus on diagnosis with updated information about the steps and different technologies involved in diagnosing a person with hepatitis C. It outlines major barriers to accessing testing technologies and services, which are similar to affordable access to the cure.

It builds on TAG’s Training Manual for Treatment Advocates: Hepatitis C Virus and Coinfection with HIV, which you can refer to for more detailed information about prevention, latest treatments, and care for hepatitis C and HIV coinfection.

The information here is written by and for people who aren’t medical specialists. TAG is comprised of treatment activists who learned about HCV because it was a problem for people in our communities. We designed the Activist Guide to increase advocates’ knowledge about available HCV tests, to discuss barriers to testing, and to assist in strategizing campaigns and action steps to overcome them.

This Activist Guide is organized into six sections. There are discussion points and action steps at the end of each section, and we hope both of these start conversations about finding solutions together.

We’ve also created a training curriculum to adapt and use the content of the Activist Guide in community education workshops. Full details about the Activist Guide, training curriculum, and the downloadable PDFs are available here on the TAG website.

If you have any comments or suggestions for future hepatitis C-related materials, please email Bryn Gay.

Contact Us: Treatment Action Group, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2503, New York, New York 10004, 212-253-7922. TAG fights for life-saving medications for people living with, and at risk for, HIV, TB, and HCV. Please consider supporting this work by making a donation today.