The cost of treating Hepatitis C In South Africa will drastically decrease in the coming months. Currently, a 3-month treatment course is R19,984 per patient. The National Health Department says the price cut will make treatment much more affordable.
Health Ministry spokesperson Foster Mohale says currently hepatitis C treatment is only available at tertiary hospitals. It is free through the public health system.
“The cost of hepatitis C treatment is expected to decrease in South Africa once the medication is on the essential medicines list and a government tender takes place. The cost should also be further reduced once generic medications become available in the local market,” says Mohale.
PRICING BREAKTHROUGH IN HEPATITIS C TREATMENT
In May this year, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and The Hepatitis Fund announced a pricing breakthrough to reduce the cost of viral hepatitis treatment by over 90 percent.
This will see a dramatic lowering of prices of the World Health Organisation-prequalified hepatitis C and B drugs. The new price agreements are part of a concerted effort by partners to increase access to hepatitis treatment globally. These new drug prices will significantly reduce the cost of treatment to low-middle-income countries, and scale up hepatitis programs to meet growing demand, all towards eliminating hepatitis.
The Hepatitis C virus causes inflammation of the liver. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness to a serious, lifelong illness including liver cirrhosis and cancer.
It spreads mostly through exposure to blood from unsafe injection practices, unscreened blood transfusions, injection drug use and sexual practices that lead to exposure to blood.
Mohale says hepatitis C seroprevalence in the general population in South Africa is estimated at 0.4% (equating to between 205 000 and 519 000) of chronically infected people.
LACK OF FUNDS FACTOR
Mohale, says funding for viral hepatitis C and B in South Africa is currently limited, due to a range of competing priorities. “We continue to motivate for ongoing and increased support for viral hepatitis services in the country,” explains Mohale.
Mohale also says that, despite thousands of South Africans infected with hepatitis C, the hepatitis B(HBV) is endemic in the country with a prevalence estimate in community settings of 6.7% equating to around 4 million people.
Hepatitis B, treatment is available at the hospital level. Patients can continue treatment in the primary care settings for free. “Hepatitis B treatment in South Africa is currently affordable and efforts are underway to increase access,” says Mohale.
HEPATITIS AND HIV
But South African National Aids Council(SANAC)spokesperson, Nelson Dlamini, says there is a strong link between hepatitis B and HIV since it is possible to also transmit the latter through sexual contact and they are both bloodborne viruses.
“Just like HIV, Hepatitis B is not curable but can be controlled with antiviral medicines. While Hepatitis C can be cured with antiviral medicines(Direct Acting Antivirals=DAAs),” explains Dlamini. –Health-e News.