It is estimated that over 400 thousand hepatitis C patients in Taiwan are currently not under treatments, and about 10 thousand new cases are confirmed every year despite the fact that new drugs for hepatitis C have a cure rate of 95%. Scholars pointed out that as there are no vaccines for hepatitis C, receiving treatments is the best and only option for patients. The scholars suggest the government should negotiate with drug companies to make new drugs for hepatitis C more affordable and accessible. They also suggest formulating a national policy to eradicate hepatitis C.
About 85% of patients with acute hepatitis C develop into chronic liver conditions, and 20% develop into cirrhosis and liver cancer. Prof Chien Rong-Nan, President of the Taiwan Association for the Study of the Liver, pointed out that the combination treatment of Long-acting interferon injection and oral Ribavirin currently available under the NHI cure about 7,000 hepatitis C patients a year. In total, about 90 thousand patients were cured from 2003 to 2015; but there are still 400 thousand patients waiting to be treated.
Prof Chen Pei-Jer, a Fellow of the Academia Sinica, expressed that about 3.87% of the population over 15-year-old in Taiwan are carriers of hepatitis C virus. The patient population increases at a rate of 10 thousand new cases a year. At present, an array of oral new drugs are available for treating hepatitis C, providing better results and fewer side effects. The government should try to make the new treatments more accessible.
Prof Chien Rong-Nan and other scholars suggest that the government should take proactive measures to eradicate hepatitis C. The first step is to sit down with drug manufacturers and negotiate an affordable price. The government might see an increase in its health expenditure in the short term, but the long-term cost will be reduced both financially and socially. Prof Chien said: “The clearance of virus will increase a patient’s productivity and reduce the follow-up treatment costs.”
Hepatitis is the world’s number 6 leading cause of death. The WHO has put forward a plan to eradicate hepatitis in 2030. Scholars in Taiwan stressed that the government has to formulate a national policy and to use the new drugs for hepatitis C as the first-line treatment so as to eradicate hepatitis C in Taiwan.
【2016-06-13/ RTI News】