In absence of a policy intervention for Hepatitis C, civil society and legal aid organisations have put together a policy brief, calling upon the government to take concerted action to address the right to health of people living with HCV (PLHCV).
HCV is a transmissible disease — it spreads the same way as HIV — and if not treated can lead to chronic conditions of the liver such as liver cirrhosis, cancer or failure. With an estimated disease burden of 8.7 million patients, HCV kills nearly six times as many people as HIV, said Paul Lhungdim, a patient activist and Project Coordinator of Delhi Network of Positive Persons (DNP+).
“As an HIV-positive person who has been treated for HCV too, it was a long and financially-draining battle because while HIV testing and treatment are free of cost through the government programme, HCV is not supported in any way. Now that generic HCV drugs are available why isn’t the government rolling out treatment? There are so many affordable medicines to treat Hepatitis C,” Mr Lhungdim said.
Speaking on behalf of Lawyers Collective, Anand Grover, senior advocate, said “HCV is a significantly bigger epidemic than HIV and yet, there has been considerably less awareness about it.”
Despite the estimated disease burden of 8.7 million Hepatitis C patients, India does not have data and, therefore, does not have appropriate budgets to address the concerns of the patients, said Dr. Mrinalini Darswal, IAS, who is the Project Director of Delhi State Aids Control Society (DSACS).
The price of treatment of HCV has become a global concern with the Indian government granting patent for the drug Sofosbuvir to American pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences. While Gilead’s Sofosbuvir is priced at almost $84,000 for an entire course in the U.S., generic Indian companies are selling their versions for less than $200 for a full course.