The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) in a press release said that from 2017 to 2019, among hepatitis C (HCV) patients who have undergone treatment with oral direct-acting antiviral medication, the annual cure rates during the period were 97 percent, 97.4 percent and 98.7 percent respectively. That translates to a remarkable average cure rate of 98.1 percent for the 75,000 HCV patients who have undergone treatment.
Medical Review and Pharmaceutical Benefits Division Deputy Director Huang Chao-chieh said that in order to achieve the government’s goal of eradicating HCV in Taiwan by 2025, the number of patients administered the oral direct-acting antiviral medication is expected to exceed 100,000 around Aug. 10. By then, including the 80,000 patients who have been cured of HCV with interferons, more than 40 percent of HCV patients in Taiwan would have received treatment.
However, Deputy Director Huang said that as some HCV patients are unaware of their disease progression and/or are residing in rural areas where treatments are not easily accessible, there are still many HCV patients that have not been accounted for. NHIA data show that there are approximately 20,000 HCV untreated patients, and 85,000 still waiting to undergo viral load tests as well as 20,000 awaiting antigen tests, which sums up to 120,000 possibly untreated HCV cases.
Through data analysis, the NHIA is hoping to identify latent HCV carriers and work with local health departments to bolster screening and testing for unidentified HCV cases.
This year’s HCV budget is estimated at NT$8.2 billion, exceeding spending in the previous three years which came to NT$3 billion, NT$5 billion and NT$6.5 billion between 2017 and 2019, respectively. As of late July, around 24,000 patients are receiving treatment with the latest drugs, with enough room to bring another 30,000 HCV patients under treatment.
Deputy Director Huang said that due to the higher HCV budget, treatments quotas have been expanded, which has made more open treatment slots available. In the past few months, the number of patients undergoing treatments have not seen significant change. Deputy Director Huang urged those who have not undergone treatment to take advantage of the opportunity to do so. In consideration of the diminishing pool of HCV patients, spending on the disease could be trimmed to 40,000 in 2021 to better allocate National Health Insurance resources.
[2020-07-28 / CNA]