Hepatitis C in India has always been referred to an expensive disease whose treatment can be affordable to only a select few. The only option available to patients so far was a year-long painful course of injections which also resulted in side effects like nausea & fever, besides being prohibitively costly.
However, with the introduction of generic drugs in the Indian market like Ledpsavir, Dalactasvir a year ago & Sofusbvir, six month ago, the situation has changed dramatically and for good. With drugs like Sofusbvir, Ledpsavir, Dalactasvir a much cheaper as well as convenient and safe option, Hepatitis C treatment is no more a rich man’s preserve. At Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad, doctors have treated several patients with these drugs in past few months and have noticed results that are safer, quicker and affordable to more people. Hence, the hospital wants to raise greater awareness about the better and more convenient treatment option available and reduce the dread associated with this disease.
“We see approximately 15-20 odd patients of Hepatitis C of which several have been successfully treated with these new generic drugs. The treatment practices previously that involved a year-long dose of injections was quite painful for the patient both physically, mentally & financially. The patients also experienced strong side-effects like fever & nausea along with suffering a significant dent on their pocket with the treatment costing somewhere between Rs 2-5 lakhs a year with a success rate of 60-70%. Comparatively, the new generic drugs involve only oral tablets which are way cheaper, with no side-effects and a success rate of 95-98%. The course of these medications is just three months and the cost involved is Rs 60-70,000, a remarkable reduction over the previous method,” says Dr Manish Kak, Consultant Gastroenterology, Columbia Asia Hospital-Ghaziabad.
“We want people to know that such an option is now available and they need not feel disheartened and worry excessively about the cost involved in treatment of the disease,” adds Dr Kak.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. The hepatitis C virus is a blood borne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices; inadequate sterilization of medical equipment; and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
130–150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection out of which 12.5 million are in India. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. Approximately 500 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases. Antiviral medicines can cure approximately 90% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.