CAIRO – 30 July 2017: Egypt treated 1,800,000 Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infected patients since October 2014. According to Dr. Gamal Esmat, professor of Hepatology and Endemic Medicine and member of the National Committee for Liver Disease Control, the challenge in Egypt remains in diagnosing patients who are not aware of their infection.
On Friday the world marked the ‘World Hepatitis Day’ organized this year under the theme ‘Eliminate hepatitis.’ On this occasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) praised Egypt’s continuous commitment and efforts to fight HCV.
Since 2014, Egypt has increased the provided services to eliminate HCV following President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi initiative to treat 1,000,000 HCV infected patients annually. In 2014, a number of Egyptian companies started manufacturing local medications similar to Sovaldi, to increase the chances of survival among infected patients by 90 percent.
Furthermore, Egypt provided all local and international medications through the medical insurance, and established treatment centers for patients in various governorates. The state also encouraged civil society organizations to provide services to HCV patients.
In the framework of Egypt’s commitment to fight HCV, the Minister of Health and Population Ahmed Emad told Egypt Today that the ministry is currently working in cooperation with the Ministry of Administrative Development to build a database for HCV patients. The data base will enable the state and the patients to make the appropriate treatment decision. Emad pointed out that this data base will enable each patient to know the status of his treatment by entering his name and national number on the dedicated web site.
The minister confirmed that the quantity of medication in Egypt is sufficient to treat a large number of HCV patients. He added that the ministry has the ability to increase this quantity at any time, if needed. He added that the Egyptian medicine has the same efficacy of the foreign drug treatment, while the cost of the patient's treatment in Egypt is only $90 compared to $90,000 for treatment abroad.
Professor of Clinical Immunology at the Cancer Institute, Fatima Nassar, said at a press conference on Thursday July 27 that treating up to 328,000 HCV patients each year starting 2018 could reduce the spread of infection by 94 percent and liver-related deaths by 75 percent by 2030. “With ongoing efforts in Egypt, we can even surpass these numbers,” said Nassar, according to Al-Ahram news outlet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Egypt is among 11 countries that carry almost 50 percent of the global burden of chronic hepatitis. Other countries are; Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Vietnam. The organization reported that in 2015, it was recorded that every year witnesses 170,000 to 200,000 new HCV cases in Egypt. The Ministry of Health and Population reported that at least 12 million Egyptians suffer from HCV in 2016.
WHO also indicates that efforts to eliminate hepatitis are gaining momentum as nearly all the 28 countries have established high-level national hepatitis elimination committees and more than half have allocated dedicated funding for hepatitis responses.
Eliminate hepatitis Infographic - Photo Credit WHO.png
Hepatitis C has been a serious problem in Egypt, spreading throughout the population from the 1950s to the 1980s when a national vaccination campaign which reused needles contributed to the spread of the infection, according to WHO.
In February, 2017 Egypt launched the ’Tour and Cure’ medical tourism initiative. The initiative offers treatment to HCV infected patients from all over the world, with an effective and advanced complete treatment program with no waiting time and at a lower cost. Argentine football player Lionel Messi launched and promoted the ‘Tour and Cure’ campaign through a visit in February, during which he explored the Great Pyramids of Giza and met with Egyptian children. Earlier in July, the Egyptian pharmaceutical company, Prime Pharma, launched an initiative to treat underprivileged HCV patients in cooperation with football player, Ronaldinho Foundation.
Marking the World Hepatitis Day, WHO released a number of key messages to raise the awareness on the virus that leads to 399,000 people dying annually. The WHO highlighted that viral hepatitis is a major global health problem that caused deaths in 2015 exceeding deaths from HIV AIDS. The organization also said in its key messages that approximately 325 million people live with chronic hepatitis at the end of 2015.
Furthermore the organization indicated that very few of those infected accessed testing and treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries. By the end of 2015, only 9 percent HBV-infected people and 20 percent of HCV -infected people had been tested and diagnosed. Of those diagnosed with HBV infection, 8 percent (or 1.7 million people) were on treatment, while 7 percent of those diagnosed with HCV infection (or 1.1 million people) had started treatment in 2015. The global targets for 2030 are: 90 percent of people with HBV and HCV infections tested and 80 percent of eligible patients are reached with treatment.
What is Hepatitis C? How is it transmitted?
An infection of the liver caused by blood borne hepatitis C virus. The virus ranges in its severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Currently, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C; however research in this area is ongoing.
The most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood, which may happen though injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
According to WHO, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection globally and 399,000 people die each year from hepatitis C. A significant number of those chronically infected can develop cirrhosis or liver cancer. Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 percent of people with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
World Hepatitis Summit
The World Hepatitis Summit 2017 will be organized in São Paulo, Brazil, on November 1-3 under the theme “Implementing the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis: Towards the Elimination of Hepatitis as a Public Health Threat." The summit will be jointly organized by WHO, the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) and the Government of Brazil. It is expected to be the largest global event to advance the viral hepatitis agenda, bringing together key players to accelerate the global response.