Old friend, new treat­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN

My key­words for 2016 are “avail­abil­ity” and “re­cov­ery”. I’ve been work­ing as a health re­porter for nearly 10 years, and it’s es­sen­tial to re­fresh one’s pas­sion and faith in the power of jour­nal­ism.

For me, that hap­pened this year thanks to “Lao” (a nick­name mean­ing “se­nior” or “old”) Bai, a spe­cial friend I got to know many years ago dur­ing an in­ter­view about di­rect-act­ing an­tivi­ral drugs, one of the most ef­fec­tive treat­ments for hep­ati­tis C.

The drugs, which can over­come the virus com­pletely and with fewer side ef­fects than many al­ter­na­tive treat­ments, be­came avail­able in over- seas mar­kets in 2011. How­ever, as a re­sult of the long, com­plex regis­tra­tion pro­ce­dure, they have never been avail­able in China, de­spite the fact that the coun­try has the world’s high­est in­ci­dence of hep­ati­tis C.

As the leader of a pa­tients’ group, Lao Bai braved po­ten­tial so­cial stigma by talking with the me­dia to make the au­thor­i­ties aware of the ur­gency of the sit­u­a­tion.

In­ter­feron, the only treat­ment he could ob­tain, had made him very weak, and I will never for­get how the 1.8-me­ter-tall 50-some­thing breathed with great dif­fi­culty like a fish out of water while bend­ing down to tie his shoelaces.

Over the years we have met con­stantly to re­it­er­ate calls for the adop­tion of di­rect-ac­tion an­tivi­ral drugs in China.

Last week, I re­ceived a phone call from him, telling me that the drugs will be ap­proved for use early next year. That same day, he made dozens of calls to re­porters to broad­cast the news.

When he phoned to thank me and other mem­bers of the me­dia for the ef­forts we had made on be­half of his cause, I felt hum­bled and could only re­ply: “Thank you, Lao Bai, for re­ju­ve­nat­ing my pas­sion for my job.”

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