How an International Coalition is Tackling One of the World’s Most Widespread Diseases

Hepatitis C is a nasty and virulent liver disease that affects over 71 million people worldwide and kills 400,000 people annually. While highly effective medicines are available, their high cost — from $12,000 in Chile to over $84,000 in the U.S. for a 12-week treatment course — means barely 3 million people get treatment.

Enter globalization: a Swiss nonprofit dedicated to providing low-cost medical treatments, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), has teamed up with an Egyptian drugmaker, Pharco Pharmaceuticals, to create a cheaper treatment program based on two U.S.-made drugs that are too expensive for most people.

The project is being funded by Médecins Sans Frontières (a.k.a. Doctors Without Borders), a founding partner of DNDi also based in Switzerland, and France’s Institut Pasteur, a private medical foundation. With the help of the health ministries of Malaysia and Thailand, trials were conducted in those nations that showed a 97% cure rate after 12 weeks — for just $300, or $3.50 per day. An Egyptian trial saw a 100% success rate. (Egypt is the worst-affected country, with 7% of the population suffering from the disease.)

Malaysia will soon provide this incredibly cheap treatment within one to two years. DNDi has signed deals with several Latin American nations to make it available for $500 for the 12 week course, with the goal of bringing down to $300.

Meanwhile, researchers in South Africa and Ukraine are working on developing a treatment to cover all six types of the disease.

Worth nothing is the response of the U.S. drugmakers, who are now feeling pressured to reduce the cost of their Hepatitis C drugs thanks to this coalition of foreign nonprofits, foundations, governments, and researchers. (The U.S. has over 3.4 million cases.)

Source: The Guardian

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