Hep C drugs price slashed

The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has negotiated with two pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of hepatitis C drugs by 70%.

Netnapis Suchonwanich, assistant NHSO secretary-general, said the decision to bring down the price of Peginterferon and Ribavirin came after five months of talks.

A dose of either drug was originally priced at more than 11,000 baht but has been slashed to 3,105 baht under the agreement. The average hepatitis C patient needs 24 doses for one treatment, which he receives once a week.

The drugs are effective in treating patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotypes 2 and 3, Ms Natnapis said, adding the NHSO will also distribute the drugs to HIV-positive patients who are commonly found to be infected with HCV, due to shared routes of transmission for the viruses.

About 2% of Thais are infected with HCV. Since 2012, a total 1,292 patients with HCV genotype 2 or 3 have sought government healthcare treatment, costing about 144 million baht.

“HCV is found in many Thai patients but access to drugs is a problem,” Ms Netnapis said. “It is a quiet disease. Most patients don’t know they are infected.”

There is 85-90% success rate for HCV patients given Peginterferon and Ribavirin, she said, adding that patients given the medication can be free from liver failure for 10 years or more.

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