The epidemiology of hepatitis C has also changed in recent decades, with a progressive decrease in the incidence mainly due to improved hygiene conditions, greater awareness of the methods of transmission, prevention and screening systems for transfusion and health procedures.
The decreasing trend has also continued in the last 10 years: the incidence has gone from 0.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006 to 0.2 in 2015.In Italy in 2016, 64,227 patients with hepatitis C were treated with second generation antiviral drugs (DAAS).
71 million people around the world live with Hepatitis C, most of them in low- or middle-income countries and although it is a treatable disease, it kills about 400,000 people worldwide every year.
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through the blood and attacks the liver, often leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. Until recently, treatment for Hepatitis C was painfully time-consuming and expensive, and involved severe side effects, but the introduction of new direct-acting antiviral drugs
(DAAs), such as daclatasvir and sofosbuvir, has revolutionized cure of the virus, making it faster and more effective, with significantly fewer side effects. But the price of drugs remains extremely high and the lack of access to diagnostic tools limits the possibility of spreading the treatments.
We work in several countries, together with local Ministries of Health, to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C and accelerate the recovery of patients. By using cheaper generic medicines and introducing simplified methods of treatment, MSF has shown that excellent results can be achieved in a variety of settings.
In countries that cannot afford the high prices imposed by pharmaceuticals and that do not have the availability of alternative generics, patients have to wait a long time before starting treatment and often access them when they are seriously ill. But Hepatitis C is a treatable disease and the new treatment methods are achieving surprising results. ”
Marina Pozzoli MSF Project Manager in Ukraine
In Ukraine, we have treated approximately 900 Hepatitis C patients with generic DAA since 2017, with a cure rate of more than 97%. Using the same drugs, MSF has simplified the care model in Cambodia and has treated 13,000 patients since 2016, helping to diagnose and treat more and more people in the country. MSF also runs Hepatitis C projects in Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and India: in 2018, it treated around 14,419 people worldwide, making a huge difference to their lives.
Ukraine: a pilot project accompanying patients to recovery
An MSF-run pilot project in Mykolaiv, a region of southern Ukraine with the country’s highest hepatitis C infection rates, has shown that a combination of generic drugs combined with a comprehensive patient support model produces encouraging results, with a cure rate of over 97%.
Large-scale application could accelerate the treatment of this disease which, according to some estimates, affects more than 5% of the country’s population, about 2 million people, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Health has arranged for the allocation and distribution of similar drugs in the country.
“We are happy to see that the Ministry of Health is making low-cost hepatitis C drugs available to thousands of patients in Ukraine. The next step is to find a solution to offer access to diagnosis and treatment to the millions of people in the country. they are at risk of infection. Our experience in Mykolaiv shows that there are effective and inexpensive models to treat hepatitis C, “says Marina Pozzoli, MSF project leader in Ukraine.
The high price imposed by pharmaceutical companies for branded versions of hepatitis C drugs has so far been a major obstacle for patients and healthcare professionals in Ukraine and around the world contain the same active ingredients and are equally effective, while being significantly cheaper. But the recent disinformation campaigns on the ineffectiveness of generics circulating in Ukraine represent an obstacle to the spread of accessible treatments.