Wonder Drug for Hepatitis C in India is now Dog Cheap

Sir Ganga Ram ditched the old hepatitis therapy for the new

Wonder Drug for Hepatitis C in India is now Dog Cheap

New Delhi, April 10: If cost of a life saving tablet be Rs 500 as against earlier Rs 60,000, required to be taken per day, there is hardly any need to stress the obvious.

The icing on this dog cheap tablet for the treatment of dreaded hepatitis C is it is manifold more effective than the traditional therapy. The cure rate has jumped to almost 100 percent.

With the availability of this wonder drug close at hand, hope has floated for millions of hepatitis C virus inflicted liver patients who were staring at the impending death.

Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram hospital has ditched the conventional therapy to pick up this wonder drug named Sofosbuvir, which was approved by FDA in America one year ago but was not available in India. Already 20 liver patients have been put on the wonder drug.

The very good news for Indian patients is this new drug called has now received approval by Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) in January 2015 and has been launched in the Indian market in mid March. The best thing is that the cost of this therapy in Indian market due to generic version is dog cheap.

Sir Ganga Ram hospital took no time to switch to new drug as its study already had proved the conventional therapy to be of little consequence. Just as the drug arrived in India last month, SGRS started it.

Talking to Meditoall, editor in chief Dhananjay Kumar, Dr Anil Arora , Chairperson , Department of Gastroenterology  &  lead author of the study , Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, ‘ hope for thousands of liver patients due to hepatitis C infection have started floating due to this cheap wonder drug. It will certainly stop the progression of damage to the liver and in many patients the need for exorbitant liver transplant will be stalled ’

The study by researchers from Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on 777 patients of Hepatitis- C  from 2008 to 2014, presented  in International Liver Congress at Vienna, Austria  has already found that the currently available treatment regimen in India for Hepatitis –C  had many limitations.

The objective of the study was to find out the cure rate (Sustained Viral Response) for Hepatitis – C Virus (HCV) by currently available treatment regimen in India. The currently available treatment therapy for HCV in India  is combination of two medicines , Injection peginterferon + Tablet Ribavirin .

The  long term use of these oral and inject able medications ,  has substantial side-effects  including  dip in haemoglobin , low platelet count , fever , bone marrow depression and even deterioration of pre-existing liver disease . Hence, a cure of Hepatitis –C referred in medical terminology as Sustained Virological Response (SVR) could not be achieved in many patients.

The limitations faced in the study were as under:

Total Number of HCV patients enrolled  –   100% (777 patients)

Eligible for existing Therapy –                         45 %

Received Therapy                –                            24 %

Completed Therapy           –                             20 %

Cured of HCV                     –                               14 %

Dr Arora , Chairperson , Department of Gastroenterology  &  lead author of the study , Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, “ Our  study found that a large proportion  of the patients are either unfit  or not able to complete the full course of therapy  due to advanced liver disease  , high cost and substantial side effects . This is in accordance with similar studies published in India and abroad.’

According to Dr. Arora, there is now a ray of hope for this large number of the patients who in India were left out and not treated by existing therapy.

About 2 years back, a new group of drugs called direct – acting antiviral agents (DAA) for treatment of Hepatitis –C patients had taken the world by surprise. The FDA approved these drugs in December 2013 which have more than 95-100 % cure rates and can even be given in advanced stage of disease. There import cost was exorbitant (Rs 60,000 per tablet to be given daily for 3 to 6 months) and was unaffordable by most patients in India.

‘We are very happy that a large segment of our patients in the study who were left out with a cure of Hepatitis –C, can now be cured by this Direct Acting Oral Anti Viral Drugs.  Already, many patients of advanced liver disease due to Heaptitis –C in our hospital have been put on this therapy”added Dr Arora.

The advantages of this new therapy are

  1. a)      It can be given at any stage of HCV disease
  2. b)      It is almost 100 % effective
  3. c)       Its cost is very less compared to existing therapy
  4. d)      Shorter duration of therapy is required
  5. e)      It is in form of tablets (unlike peginterferon which is injectable)

Hepatitis C virus infection is a major cause of liver disease worldwide. It causes cirrhosis of liver and liver cancer and is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide. In India, the estimated prevalence of HCV is between 0.5 and 1.5 %. This means, more than 12.5 million people population is infected by HCV in India. In most patients HCV is detected very late when the disease has already advanced to the stage of permanent liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer. These patients are going to be benefitted most by these drugs.

‘With the launch of this therapy in India, we hope more and more patients of HCV will be benefitted” said Dr Arora .

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