Fact box: 15 facts about Hepatitis C in Egypt and the latest approved drugs

Ingy Deif, Thursday 29 May 2014

HCV experts in Cairo give recommendations on best treatments available, wrapped up in 15 points

15th congress of ESHGID
15th congress of ESHGID

A panel of experts convened in Cairo for the 15th Annual Congress of the Egyptian Society of Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Infectious Diseases, to shed light on the latest developments regarding approved Hepatitis C (HCV) treatments suitable for Egyptians, especially after the success of the Ministry of Health and the National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis in securing the provision of Sofosbuvir at a low price.

The panel included professors of Hepatology Dr Hassan Hamdy and Dr Mahmoud Osman from Ain Shams University, Dr Helmy Abaza and Dr Yosry Taher from Alexandria University, Dr Taher El-Zanaty from Cairo University, and Dr Sherif Abdel Fattah from the Military Medical Academy.

Ahram Online used the recommendations of the panel, along with information from the Egyptian Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO), to wrap up 15 facts regarding HCV in Egypt and the best recommended treatment.

  1. According to the WHO, the number of the infected with HCV worldwide exceeds 150 million, most of them in developing countries.
  2. HVC infection raises the risk of cancer and cirrhosis of the liver greatly.
  3. HCV is transmitted through infected blood, with blood transfusions and contaminated needles being the most common means.
  4. Of the six genotype strains of the virus, the fourth — previously treated with two combined drugs: Interferon, which targets the immune system, and Ribavirin — comprises the majority of infections in Egypt (90 percent)
  5. The probable cause of the spike in infection rates in Egypt was the use of contaminated needles in the campaign to eradicate schistosomiasis back in the 1970s.
  6. Egypt has the lion's share of HCV infections worldwide, spiking from four percent in 1993 to 8.5 percent in 2005. The total estimated number of Egyptians infected is currently around 12 million.
  7. HCV is the leading cause of liver cancer, which is responsible for one third of the total number of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
  8. The number of HVC infected reached eight million in 2008, according to the Ministry of Health registry of that year, translating into nearly 10 percent of the population, while in some Upper Egypt and Delta areas the percentage is a staggering 20 percent.
  9. In 2011, two new drugs — Tela Previr and Boceprevir — were introduced in Egypt, but they were not suitable for the fourth genotype of Hepatitis C from which 90 percent of Egyptian patients suffer, causing negative side effects and drug interactions.
  10. At the end of March, the pharmaceutical company producing the new Hepatitis C pill Sofospuvir announced it would offer Egyptians its new treatment at a 99 percent discount on the US price.
  11. The price tag of the drug in the US is $84,000 for a course of treatment extending to 12 weeks.
  12. The panel of experts stressed that combining three oral medications, such as the new drug Sofosbuvir with Interferon and Ribavirin had been proven to raise the cure rate for the genotype 4 HCV to a whopping 96 percent.
  13. The combination of the three drugs halves the duration of treatment from six to three months, minimises sideffects, and thus lowers costs overall.
  14. The triple treatment conforms to the recommendations of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the European Association for the Study of the Liver. The treatment also helps in treating those suffering from a relapse, with minimal side effects.
  15. Patients who are at risk of liver deterioration, who suffer side effects or who cannot afford treatment are advised to go through the dual therapy of Interferon and Ribavirin, which achieves cure rates of 65 percent. Waiting for other drugs to be approved — which would take another year — is not recommended.
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