Egypt wins acclaim for aggressive campaign against hepatitis C

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© Khaled Desouki, AFP | An Egyptian medical staffer takes oral samples from a labourer undergoing examination for hepatitis C on August 3, 2017

Egypt has undertaken an aggressive campaign to eradicate hepatitis C both domestically and abroad, France 24 reports.

The disease became an epidemic in the nation back in the 1960s and 1970s when needles used during a mass immunization programme were not sterilised well. The disease spread widely due to little awareness, hence rendered Egypt as the country with the highest rate of hepatitis C in the world.

In 2008 and estimated 14 percent of the population carried the virus, this according to an Egyptian survey carried out at the time, the report said.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Analysis (CDA) in the US and the National Liver Institute in Egypt, the disease was a major drain on the Egyptian economy, accounting for 4 percent of all direct healthcare expenditures

Unti recently, a new orally administered drug, Sofosbuvir came on market in 2013 December and helped the Egyptian government in the tackle of the disease.  Before the new drug, the standard treatment was based on injections of interferon which not only has debilitating side effects but a relatively low success rate of between 19 and 60 percent, depending on a person’s genotype, the report said.

The new drug combined with supplementary medications is a success with a rate between 95 and 98 per cent, said Professor Wahid Doss, chairman of Egypt’s National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis.

The new drug was expensive and access was a problem with a 12 week course of treatment costing about $84,000. To solve the situation, in 2015 an Egyptian company began manufacturing a generic version that cost about $8o for three months of treatment. The move helped the government to launch a massive and widely lauded program to wipe out the disease.

According to Dr. Alaa Hashish, a medical officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cairo, all the member states of the WHO are looking to trhe Egyptian programme as a pioneer program based on the success.

Since the program started, 1.7 million of those infected have been treated, and waiting lists for the drugs have since disappeared.

In a move to eradicate the disease completely, the government has set out to launch a nationwide screening program to help identify remaining 3.3 million people who don’t realise they are infected with the virus.

To help find new patients, the company has put eight mobile clinics into service that will travel throughout the country providing free screening, said Pharco’s CEO Sherine Helmy. By 2018, 30 million Egyptians will have been tested, the report quotes him say.

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