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01 Lug 2016

Hep-C, when we cannot get cured: a social problem across Europe and USA

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Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver and caused by the virus.
The patient often shows no symptoms and this is why the large number of the infected people is not diagnosed until a much later stage.
The untreated chronic hepatitis C infection may lead to liver scarring (fibrosis) and ultimately to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer


Until 2013, the common hepatitis treatment was a combination of antiviral drugs interferon and ribavirin. With a success rate about 50%, those drugs required the treatment that lasted generally between 6 and 12 months.

The serious side effects of interferon such as flu-like symptoms, hair loss, nausea, depression and low blood counts often forced the doctors to stop treating their patient before the treatment results could be seen.


In 2013-2014, a breakthrough happened in the hepatitis C treatment: FDA approved several new drug products. Among those are sofosbuvir and sofosbuvir – ledipasvir combination. The treatment duration was reduced, for most cases, to 12 weeks.

The new drugs cause very little side effects and show very high success rates. For instance, success rate of sofosbuvir-ledipasvir for genotype 1 hepatitis is about 98%.

So it is all great and good, we finally have a cure that can be used.

The bad news

So a cure finally exists! What is the bad news then?
Unfortunately, everything has a cost and for the HepC treatment it is an expensive one!
The complete treatment in the US or Europe costs $ 90,000.
The National Health System in most European Countries has managed to get some price reduction for the treatment but it still supports patients based on a criterion of eligibility for treatment: only those who are at an advanced stage of the disease are entitled to free treatment. Ironically the treatment performed in the early stages of the disease has a much higher success rate, but you need to wait and worsen in order to access the treatment for free.

In the United States and Canada not all private insurances cover the costs of treatment and most do it only for 30%-60%. Some insurance companies even implement a real discrimination and refuse to provide treatment in specific cases such as history of alcohol abuse. The result is that not everyone can afford insurance.

Essentially less than 10% of patients with hepatitis C has access to the new therapy. The remaining 90% is left aside to wait.

The Good news

What most people in the United States and Europe do not know is that the new treatment with modern antiviral may be available at an affordable price.

India presents a high incidence of cases in the population and has signed trade agreements with the parent holder of the patent in order to produce at affordable cost these new therapies. With an economy growing steadily, a population of 1 billion people and the most modern industrial structures, India is able to produce pharmaceutical products of excellent quality at much lower costs.

Some Indian pharmaceutical giants well-known internationally for the production of antivirals for HIV care have recently signed agreements to produce a generic product under license of the American home. Some of these large pharmaceutical companies are Natco, Mylan, Hetero and Zydus. A total of 11 manufacturers currently have the license.

The results published in papers presented in January 2016 and in March 2016 prove equally effective to the famous brand name drug.

These generic drugs are sold only in India and can be purchased only with a regular prescription after proper consultation with an Indian hepatologist.

For more news about Hep-C, you can check out the blog:

Luca Xerri

Luca Xerri, was born in Bologna in 1981 and graduated in engineering in 2005. He has since been working internationally for 10 years in the Oil business. He recently cofounded Arimedio whose purpose is to give access to the Hep-C treatment to the largest amount of people.

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