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Health Ministry negotiates a cheaper Hepatitis C cure


Egypt reached an agreement to import a new cure for Hepatitis C at a reduced cost, worth only one percent of its international price, an official statement by the Ministry of Health reported late Wednesday.


The National Hepatology and Tropical Medicine Research Institute (NHTMRI) led negotiations for the new deal with a US-based pharmaceutical company to enable Hepatitis C patients in Egypt to receive a six-month treatment plan for only LE13,000 (US$1900) instead of over one million pounds if sold at international prices.


According to the World Health Organization, Egypt has the highest prevalence of HCV in the world, with 10-14 percent — 8 to 10 million — infected and an approximate 1.5 million in need of treatment. Of these, Gamal Esmat, professor of liver disease in Cairo told Mada Masr that the vast majority are in the Nile Delta region.


HCV’s high prevalence in Egypt is in part due to a mass state campaign in the 1960s and 1970s to treat schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, using improperly sterilized glass syringes and needles.


Head of the negotiating team Wahid Doss said that the new cure, Sovaldi, is an oral treatment and that the negotiations with the company have been taking place for six months.


The agreement also stipulates that there will be a special production line for Egypt, as it will be only given to patients who receive their treatment in institutions belonging to NHTMRI during the second half of 2014 when the cure is fully registered in Egypt.


The newly tested treatment allegedly cures the virus within 12 weeks at a 97 percent effectiveness rate and with no side effects. Known as “direct acting antiviral agents,” the new HCV drug treatments combat the disease by targeting the infected liver cells and destroying the virus’ replication machinery.