Hepatitis drug shows ‘remarkable’ results

Updated September 29, 2017

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PESHAWAR: An oral anti-hepatitis C drug started by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in March this year, has shown 95 per cent efficacy rate, according to officials.

“The drug has replaced injections administered to the hepatitis C patients. It has lesser side effects than injections,” Dr Kalimullah Khan, manager of the hepatitis control programme, told Dawn.

According to him, the pill ‘Sofosbuvir’ is taken orally by patients for three months along with two supportive medicines. He said that the tablet had shown remarkable results.

“We have given the tablets to 200 patients at Hayatabad Medical Complex free of cost and 197 of them have fully recovered. The patients undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test every two months during treatment and most of them have become negative for hepatitis C virus after second PCR,” said Dr Kalimullah.

Expert claims efficacy rate of Sofosbuvir is 95 per cent

He said that results of tests at Lady Reading Hospital and Khyber Teaching Hospital also showed over 95 per cent cure rate. “We have given the same medicine to 6,000 patients throughout the province and hope that efficacy would be the same,” he added.

Dr Kalimullah said that they were in the process of analysing the efficacy of the drug. The PCR test of more than 5,000 patients had already emerged negative and indications were that the results of the remaining patients would be satisfactory.

Dr Kalimullah said that the injections were expensive as well as painful and the patients underwent hardships in getting them to administer daily. He said that the oral treatment was not only effective but the people didn’t face any problem in consuming the pills. There were 33 sites inside the hospitals where patients received free diagnostic and treatment facilities, he added.

Dr Kalimullah said prevalence rate of hepatitis B in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was two per cent while that of C was five per cent. “There was a time when hepatitis C was considered an incurable disease but now patients are recovering fast due to research and new drugs,” he said.

He said that treatment of hepatitis C would further get a boost after the start of a new oral drug, Daclatasavir, which would ensure 100 per cent cure rate. He said that the new drug would be given to patients in combination with the Sofosbuvir for three months.

Dr Kalimullah said that the cure rate of Daclatasavir in Punjab, which started it after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was also satisfactory. The medicine was widely prescribed in private sector hospitals and clinics by physicians, he said.

“Sofosbuvir is effective in genotype C hepatitis, which is prevalent in Pakistan while Daclatasavir is effective in all 10 genotypes of the liver ailment,” he said, citing results from a survey by Pakistan Health Research Survey. He said that it would cover all patients effectively.

Dr Kalimullah said that they would open tenders on October 16 and hopefully the patients would start getting the tablet free of cost from November. Unlike Sofosbuvir, which couldn’t be provided to all patients because of the shortage of stock with the department, the new pill would be purchased through rate contracting due to which the department would buy it on need basis.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2017