NEW DELHI: As World Hepatitis Day is being observed on July 28, 2016, the Lawyers Collective, in collaboration with Dr Samiran Panda from NICED-Kolkata, Dr Saubhik Ghosh from IPGMER-Chandigarh and SSKM Hospital- Kolkatta and Giten Khwairakpam from Treat Asia-Bangkok have launched an analysis paper on hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment access in India and have called upon the government to take concerted action to address the right to health of people living with HCV (PLHCB).
HCV is a transmissible disease. If not treated it can lead to chronic conditions of the liver such as liver cirrhosis, cancer or failure.
Speaking to DTMT Senior Advocate Anand Grover said, “HCV is a significantly bigger epidemic that HIV and yet there has been considerably less awareness about it. It was during the series of meetings with the HCV community that we realized that this was important to highlight along with other areas where there is a complete lack of attention.”
He said, “The paper is a consolidation of the critical areas of discussion involving diverse stakeholders and we hope that it will be used widely as a source for treatment access advocacy.”
Paul Lhungdim, president, Delhi Network of Positive People asked, “As an HIV positive person who has been treated for HCV too, it was a long and financially-draining battle because while HIV testing and treatment are free of cost through the government programme, HCV is not supported in any way. Now that generic HCV drugs are available, why isn’t the government moving on rolling out treatment?”
Oussama Tawil, UNAIDS Country director, India, said “The paper makes strong arguments for expanding access to viral hepatitis treatment, and it is hoped that the government takes note of this In the plan to combat hepatitis.”
He said, “Viral hepatitis and HIV continue to affect a significant number of people, particularly those who inject drugs.”
Charanjit Sharma, of India Drug Users Forum said “Many co-infected drug users are dying because of HCV, not HIV. It is time the government acknowledges the extent of the problem and takes steps to address it.”
The price of treatment of HCV has became a global concern with unscrupulous patents hindering access. While Gilead’s Sofosbuvir has been priced at almost $84,000 for an entire course in the US, generic Indian companies, through voluntary licenses, are selling their versions for less than $200 for a full course.