Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

No Hepatitis C lists

There are no more Hepatitis C patients on the government’s waiting list, reports Reem Leila

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of Health and Population has announced that it has ended medical treatment of the 850,000 patients who have Hepatitis C. Since September 2014, Hepatitis C patients have been on a waiting list in the ministry’s hospitals to receive new medication which has cured more than 98 per cent of patients. It can cure all genotypes of the virus.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said that since 30 July patients who registered online with the National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis (NCCVH) will receive medication immediately. “There will be no more waiting lists,” Megahed said.

The ministry depended on funding from the Health Insurance Authority and the ‘Long Live Egypt’ presidential fund in order to cover the health expenses of patients on the waiting list, which reached LE2.5 billion. The fund helped in curing 150,000 patients in the country. “The Ministry of Religious Endowments donated six new ambulances and LE2 million which helped in shortening the waiting period for patients needing treatment and helped in treating 1,250 patients,” Megahed added.

The estimated number of Egyptians who have Hepatitis C is around 12 million out of its 90 million population. Egypt used to have the highest rate of Hepatitis C in the world, with infections rising from four per cent in 1993 to 8.5 per cent in 2005.

Since the project began in September 2014, an average of 103,000 Hepatitis C patients registered daily on the NCCVH website. Now, after the project’s success, the number of patients registering on the website declined to 400 patients daily. New medical centres over the past eight months that can treat Hepatitis C have also been added, thus increasing the total number of centres in Egypt from 53 to 153.

Moreover, the ministry said it depended on the locally-manufactured version of an imported Hepatitis C medicine, Solvadi, which costs LE2,200 abroad whereas the Egyptian made medicine costs only LE449.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a study in May 2015 stating Egypt was among the countries which have the highest rates of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. WHO estimates that more than 150 million people all over the world are infected with Hepatitis C, most of them in developing countries, putting them at risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Each year there are 165,000 new HCV cases in Egypt. The virus kills around 40,000 Egyptians a year.

Wahid Doss, a professor of hepatology at the National Liver Institute, said the new drug “achieved a success rate of Hepatitis C patients ranging from 95 to 100 per cent. “Scientists tested the new medication on Hepatitis types 1, 4, 5 and 6. We found that it was effective on patients with type 1 by 96 per cent and genotype 4 by 97-100 per cent. Type 4 virus C is the most common type in Egypt,” Doss said.

According to Doss, most people infected with HCV show no symptoms of the disease until liver damage becomes apparent, and that may take several years. Some people with chronic HCV infection develop cirrhosis over the years which can lead to complications such as bleeding, jaundice, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, infections and liver cancer.

Doss said the new generation of medication was considered a great improvement and would help in reducing the prevalence rate by three per cent over the next six years. “Within several years, Egypt can put an end to HCV by using the new medication in addition to applying precautionary measures in order to reduce sources of infection,” Doss said.

According to the WHO, Hepatitis C is transmitted through unexamined blood transfusions, multiple using of syringes, reusing of medical equipment, poor sterilisation and sexual intercourse.

Egypt has the world’s highest rate of the virus. Out of 10 new infections, six occur in hospitals and clinics for different reasons. The remaining four become infected at hairdressers and barbers because HCV can be spread through blood.

Currently, Egypt is working to improve training on infection control for doctors and nurses. The aim is to stamp out unsafe medical practices such as reusing needles and other medical devices that should be discarded after use. But raising standards will also require further resources, Doss stresses. “A dentist in a poor rural area will probably spend more on sterilising his equipment than he earns from treating a patient.”

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