KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — The Health Ministry revealed that only 0.9 per cent of an estimated half a million Malaysians with Hepatitis C have been treated with generics.
The Star reported that just 4,500 Hepatitis C patients have received treatment, 20 months after the Malaysian government used a compulsory licence — without the drug maker’s consent — to obtain generics of the Hepatitis C drug, sofosbuvir.
Health Ministry National Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said there were problems in getting lab support, coordinating with hospitals for the treatment of patients, and procurement that didn’t meet specifications.
“We have rectified the problems and we expect the number of patients screened and treated will increase markedly next year,” he told a recent forum on Hepatitis C.
Dr Muhammad Radzi reportedly said few patients were treated because many of them had liver cirrhosis and required more of the alloted medicine because of their hospital treatment.
“We will have screening and treatment in selected health clinics in every state beginning next year.”
He also reportedly said the Health Ministry and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) have screened only over 50,000 high-risk people this year, 10 per cent of the estimated 500,000 people living with Hepatitis C.
A Hepatitis C rapid diagnostic test introduced by FIND and the Health Ministry in several government clinics had screened 15,148 people, out of which 2,031 patients tested positive for Hepatitis C, while another 11,523 people were screened during the Health Ministry’s World Hepatitis Day July campaign, out which 220 tested positive.
Other cases of the 50,000 people screened are awaiting test results.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in August 2018 that about 500,000 people in Malaysia were estimated to have Hepatitis C.
The previous Barisan Nasional administration rejected drug maker Gilead Science’s voluntary licence offer for sofosbuvir and used a compulsory licence in 2017 instead to obtain a generic version of the Hepatitis C drug that reportedly cost up to RM300,000 for a full course of treatment, angering US pharmaceutical companies.
Research published in The Lancet journal last July found that voluntary licensing for Hepatitis C virus medication is linked to increased access to treatment in low- and middle-income countries. Voluntary licences are an agreement between originator and generic manufacturers that allows the production and sale of patented drugs in certain countries, subject to licensing terms.