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'Most Hepatitis C affected untreated in India'

BS Reporter  |  Hyderabad 

With 15 million Indians affected by chronic Hepatitis C infection, a majority of them are not getting treated due to lack of public awareness on the spread of virus and also the preventive steps.

Though the cost of treating Hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients had come down drastically from $1,000 a pill few years ago to $100 now, very few are aware of having the virus in their body and most of them are ending up with liver cancer. Domestic drug manufacturers, in arrangement with Gilead, are now producing the affordable generic version of Sofosbuvir for HCV treatment.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study on Hepatitis C had found unsafe therapeutic injections and transfusion of unsafe blood as the predominant mode of transmission of HCV in the country.

"An awareness campaign on safe injection practices is required to prevent the spread of HCV in India," observed Status Report on HCV infection in India published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology.

To keep the population aware of the safe practices and improve knowledge on HCV, the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology developed an Internet Hepatitis C portal, which was launched by the Governor of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan, here today. The portal will be updated with information on the latest drugs in the market and treatment practices besides making international research accessible to doctors.

D Nageshwar Reddy, chairman of Asian Institute of Gastroenterology said: "Around 99.95 per cent of the 15 million HCV infected are not getting treated and the infection is high in the northeast". He said that state-wise they had observed a greater incidence of HCV in Khammam and East Godavari due to the unsafe injection practices there. He said the incidence of HCV infection in these two districts was six times than that of the national average.

He said the institute was getting an average of 30 cases each day here and a large pool of 6,000 patients were currently getting treated by them. The institute is taking up screening in identified pockets to estimate the prevalence of HCV in the country. "A pan-India screening is not feasible comparing that the cost involved is Rs 100 a patient".

According to him, the Sofosbuvir drug completely cures HCV and it is the only available drug in the market. In most cases, the infection is being recognised in the final stages. "In future, we expect the existing $100 a pill to come down to less than $50 in the domestic market."

First Published: Mon, March 23 2015. 20:38 IST