Pharmaceutical Companies Must Reduce Cost Of Hepatitis C Treatment

Noting July 28 was World Hepatitis Day, Azzi Momenghalibaf, program officer for the International Harm Reduction Development Program and Access to Essential Medicines Initiative at the Open Society Foundations, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, “Unlike cancer or HIV, hepatitis C is curable in the majority of cases. Unfortunately, cure has been hampered by the fact that the bulk of people living with hepatitis C reside in low- and middle-income countries where the main medicine used in the current standard of care — Pegylated Interferon-alfa (Peg-IFN) — is priced out of reach.” She discusses the high cost of treatment and how some countries, including Egypt and Thailand, have negotiated lower prices with the pharmaceutical companies that make the therapy, Merck and Roche. “To mark World Hepatitis Day this year, activists protested the high price of hepatitis C treatment at rallies in Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Latvia. And in Asia, groups are preparing to ask Merck and Roche to drop the price to $1,000 USD a year,” she notes.

“So, this World Hepatitis Day, we stand in solidarity with civil society groups in low- and middle-income countries, and their governments as they mobilize in the fight for access to hepatitis C treatment,” Momenghalibaf writes. “Affordable access to life-saving medicines is a human right, and only when governments and pharmaceutical companies commit to making treatment available at fair prices, will we close the hepatitis C treatment gap,” she states, concluding, “If these companies continue to put profits before people, the hepatitis C epidemic will surge, and many more will unnecessarily die” (7/29). A “Graphic Detail” in The Economist presents a map comparing the number of deaths from HIV and viral hepatitis (7/29).

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