Two new drugs were launched for fighting Hepatitis C at an affordable price as experts from across the globe gathered in New Delhi to discuss progress in finding treatment to the dreaded Hepatitis B and C liver diseases. During a three-day conference organised by Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) and Asia Pacific Association for Study of Liver (APASL), the experts resolved to find treatment for Hepatitis-B, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has termed as a “major global health problem”.
According to WHO, an estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and more than 7,80,000 people die every year due to complications of Hepatitis B which includes cirrhosis and liver cancer. Speaking about the alarming rise in cases of Hepatitis B and C over the years, Dr Shiv Sarin, country’s noted liver specialist, noted that ILBS alone has over 7,500 patients registered with either of these diseases on regular follow up.
These numbers are only expected to go up with time, he said and added that the institute has observed a sharp increase in the number of patients reporting with Hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer of the liver which is strongly correlated with Hepatitis C. Dr Sarin informed that although both Hepatitis B and C are susceptible to control with access to right treatment, “more needs to be done to ensure increase in public awareness regarding them”. During the conference, two new drugs were launched for treatment of Hepatitis C disease at affordable price.
“Hepatitis C virus is a silent killer as people get to know about the disease suddenly after 20 or 25 years. With the launch of these two new drugs, India can cure all types of Hepatitis C that too at an affordable rate as these drugs are up to 300 per cent cheaper as compared to foreign countries,” Dr Sarin said. The doctors claimed that the two drugs have almost negligible side effects and high cure rate of 90 per cent.
The two new drugs, along with oral antiviral drug, have brought fresh hope to Hepatitis C infected patients whose treatment heavily depends upon weekly injections with “notorious side effects”, doctors said. They complete the spectrum of second wave drugs against Hepatitis C and now 95 per cent of patients in India can be treated. Besides Hepatitis C, these drugs are even safe and effective in patients with kidney disease and Thalassemia.
“Like Tuberculosis and HIV, the patients suffering from Hepatitis B and C should get free treatment in India. They should not be discriminated against. Prevention is the best method of controlling the spread of these diseases. If we vaccinate all our newborns, we can eliminate Hepatitis B by 2080 and if we treat all, we can eliminate Hepatitis C by 2020,” he said.
Participating in the conference, Director of US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention John W Ward said “a variety of organisations and drug manufacturers are employing various activities to set drug pricing and increase affordability. “Given the public health benefits of HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) prevention, testing, care and treatment, the World Health Organisation is proposing global goals for the elimination of HCV transmission and mortality.”
Prof George K K Lau from China talked about new advances in therapy of Hepatitis B. Experts talked about a cutting edge technology for combating liver failure namely liver dialysis which is used to clean the blood of various toxins produced by malfunctioning liver. It provides a new lease of life to critically ill patients who cannot immediately undergo liver transplantation, they said.
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