More than 1 million people in low- and middle-income countries have received direct-acting antiviral drugs for hepatitis C, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The new hepatitis C drugs, introduced in 2013, have a cure rate of greater than 95%, fewer side effects than previous hepatitis C therapies, and can cure the disease within 3 months. The initial high costs of the drugs made them unaffordable in low- and middle-income countries, but many, including Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Thailand, and Ukraine, are now able to acquire the drugs for people who need them.
“Comparable to the early days of HIV treatment, high prices are a barrier to the scale-up of HCV treatment,” the report stated. “The new medicines were introduced at very high prices, in particular, in high-income countries. However, the pricing situation is not static and the report shows that prices in low- and certain middle-income countries are rapidly declining.”
“There are still huge differences between what countries are paying,” noted Suzanne Hill, MD, Director for Essential Medicines and Health Products at WHO. “Some middle-income countries, which bear the largest burden of hepatitis C, are still paying very high prices. WHO is working on new pricing models for these, and other expensive medicines, to increase access to all essential medicines in all countries.”
In middle-income countries, for example, the price of 3-month treatment of sofosbuvir and daclatasvir varies from $9,400 in Brazil to $79,900 in Romania.
“We hope countries will update their hepatitis treatment guidelines, work to remove barriers to access, and make these medicines available promptly for everyone in need,” stated Gottfried Hirnschall, MD, Director of WHO’s Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme.
- World Health Organization. Global report on access to hepatitis C treatment: focus on overcoming barriers. October 2016. Accessed November 7, 2016.