August 30, 2015 - National Meet on "Hepatitis C treatment in India -
A 2-day national meeting titled “Hepatitis C treatment in India – call for action” was organized at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 29th and 30th of October 2015. The National Meeting was hosted by Lawyers Collective and was attended by lawyers, medical experts, academicians, different patient groups, public health activists, civil society organizations, international organizations, UN representatives, and pharmaceutical companies. The recent introduction of Direct Acting Antivirals, and the possibilities of many other revolutionary drugs being launched in Indian markets in the coming year, lent significance to the meet
The Meeting was the initiative of Lawyers Collective, who had conducted various regional meetings all over the country over the past year. Mr. Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective presented a Position Paper on HCV in India, which articulated a right to health framework for addressing the prevention and care of hepatitis C in India. The Paper provided a reasonable estimate the HCV burden in India, identified key challenges in treatment and prevention including intellectual property barriers, proposed evidence-based treatment guidelines, and projected treatment costs to the government. The patient groups attending the National Meeting were representatives of Injecting Drug Users (IDUs), persons living with HIV, Thalassaemia, and Hemophilia. It is established that these groups carry a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis C (HCV). Though representatives of renal failure patient were not present, the challenges faced by them were also taken up.
Mr. Vinay Shetty, our Vice President, represented all thalassaemia patients in the country. He spoke on the particular challenges faced by thalassaemic children who were also carrying HCV. Thalassaemia Major patients already carry a threat to the liver due to iron overload, which is a resultant of the multiple transfusions. The multiple transfusions expose them to the risk of HCV because of poor voluntary blood donation, and inferior systems for testing of transfusion transmitted infections. Mr. The earlier regimen of Peg-Interferon and Ribavarin, had a longer treatment period, low success rate, and serious problems for thalassaemics due to hemolytic anaemia triggered by Ribavarin. For thalassaemics the very nature of their blood disorder had haemoglobin as the central challenge. Our Vice President pointed that the euphoria of “Sofosbuvir” was not applicable to thalassaemics due to the treatment regimen not eliminating Ribavarin. There was a need for the introduction into India of other DAAs which were in the pipeline.
The meet emphasized on the need for prevention of Hepatitis C, which could be achieved significantly by ensuring safety of blood. Implementation of the National Blood Policy, it was felt, was necessary. Safe medical practices in the form of handling of syringes, needless, dialysis machines, and other biological wastes, were also highlighted.
The Meet resolved to give call for action to the government of India to formulate, adopt, and implement a comprehensive rights-based policy on HCV treatment, care and prevention.