Hep­ati­tis C cure

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The coun­try’s 10 mil­lion pa­tients with hep­ati­tis C soon will have ac­cess to treat­ments that may cure their liver in­fec­tion.

Hep­ati­tis C pa­tients in China will soon be able to ac­cess di­rect-act­ing an­tivi­ral treat­ments, which can thor­oughly cure the liver in­fec­tion, a se­nior liver dis­ease spe­cial­ist said.

“Sev­eral DAA medicines are ex­pected to get ap­proval from the top drug author­ity and en­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket early next year, which will bring China’s hep­ati­tis C treat­ment in line with in­ter­na­tional main­stream prac­tices,” said Wei Lai, pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese So­ci­ety of Liver Dis­eases of the Chi­nese Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

Cur­rently, most Chi­nese pa­tients are on in­jec­tion in­ter- feron ther­apy, which takes longer and may cause se­ri­ous re­ac­tions for some re­cip­i­ents.

DAA, by con­trast, is taken orally and can usu­ally get rid of the virus and cure the dis­ease in about 12 weeks.

A pa­tient sur­named Bai is one of those who can­not han­dle the ma­jor side ef­fects from in­ter­feron treat­ment. To sur­vive, he bought DAA drugs from over­seas and was cured last year.

DAA medicines have been read­ily avail­able else­where world­wide for many years. But the coun­try with the most pa­tients has no such drugs largely due to “com­plex and lengthy drug reg­is­tra­tion pro­cesses”, ac­cord­ing to WHO China Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bern­hard Schwart­lander.

In April, the China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced an ac­cel­er­a­tion of the reg­is­tra­tion for DAA.

“That’s en­cour­ag­ing, and Chi­nese pa­tients will be able to ac­cess world-class treat­ments at home,” Bai said.

Bai con­tracted the hep­ati­tis C virus in the late 1980s via a blood trans­fu­sion. Vi­ral screen­ings for hep­ati­tis C and HIV were not in­te­grated into the na­tion’s blood do­na­tion drives un­til 1993, and a num­ber of peo­ple be­came in­fected from blood trans­fu­sions in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Wei said.

“A ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese hep­ati­tis C pa­tients were in­fected dur- ing that pe­riod and they have now be­gun to de­velop cir­rho­sis of the liver and can­cer,” he said.

China has about 10 mil­lion peo­ple with hep­ati­tis C — the high­est world­wide — with nearly 60 per­cent of them be­com­ing in­fected via blood-re­lated pro­ce­dures, sta­tis­tics from the Na­tional Health and Family Plan­ning Com­mis­sion showed.

Other high risk pro­ce­dures in­clude dental ser­vices, en­doscopy and dial­y­sis, Wei said.

He urged the govern­ment to con­sider cover­ing DAA un­der the health in­sur­ance pro­gram to im­prove pa­tient ac­cess.

“Over the long run, it’s cost ef­fec­tive, be­cause treat­ment for cir­rho­sis of the liver and can­cer costs much more,” he said.

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