New Delhi/Geneva: FIND is currently negotiating a proposed grant agreement with UNITAID to fund increased access to hepatitis C (HCV) diagnosis and treatment in eight countries, including India.
The proposed project, if funded by UNITAID, would be for a catalytic pilot intervention to widen the availability of affordable and effective HCV diagnosis and help create a viable market for HCV drugs at reduced prices.
Globally an estimated 130-150 million people – including some 12 million in India – have HCV. However, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), only an estimated 1 per cent of people with HCV are aware that they are infected. Diagnostic tests for HCV are currently only available in the form of high-priced screening tests and confirmatory testing at central laboratories—making them inaccessible to millions of people. New, simplified and affordable tests are crucial to unlocking markets for effective HCV treatment globally.
HCV poses a particularly severe threat to people living with HIV. Globally, an estimated 3.2 million HIV/HCV co-infected patients are vulnerable to rapidly progressing liver disease and as a result. This situation is similar to that prevailing at the height of the HIV crisis 15 years ago, when millions around the world required treatment that, at the time, was available almost exclusively in wealthy countries. Thanks to sustained funding, market interventions and investments in health systems, nearly 16 million HIV-infected people in low- and middle-income countries now receive life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Without increased efforts to tackle HCV and the hidden epidemic of HIV/HCV co-infection, the disease is poised to undermine hard-won successes in HIV care.
“Hepatitis C is curable,” said Dr Catharina Boehme, FIND CEO. “New, simple-to-use and affordable tests are essential in the battle against HCV and can contribute to disease elimination when deployed with innovative testing and treatment strategies.”
The necessary ingredients already exist for market interventions and investments in health systems to create sustainable HCV care and treatment programmes worldwide. New non-toxic HCV drugs that work against every genotype of the disease have dramatically simplified HCV care and treatment, and are now widely available in high-income countries—but priced well beyond the reach of most LMIC country programmes.
The proposed project would work to obtain regulatory approval for new, simplified and high-quality HCV diagnostic tests, secure preferential pricing agreements with test suppliers, and incorporate new HCV tests in existing HIV programmes in order to begin scaling up access to HCV diagnosis and treatment among one of the most vulnerable populations.
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