Expensive Hep C treatment now available in Guyana free of cost
Persons living with Hepatitis C can for the first time access free treatment from the Ministry of Health as of next Wednesday.
A collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has made this possible.
Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony during the launching ceremony on Thursday announced that the treatment that once cost US$2,000 was acquired at just US$160 per patient. Through PAHO’s strategic fund the medication was purchased and provided to Guyana to treat some 600 patients.
“By introducing treatment early we can prevent someone years down the road from getting cancer. And that’s how significant this is.
“We started a lot of focus on hepatitis B and in fact the WHO had set a number of targets in terms of countries meeting these targets to prevent Hepatitis B in the country,” Dr. Anthony explained.
The minister said Guyana has been able to get 93 per cent of children vaccinated against the virus at birth. Going beyond PAHO’s 90 per cent target.
However, “Hepatitis C has been a different challenge for us,” he said.
The Health Minister explained that the blood bank often conducts tests and detects the virus from samples but even with the diagnosis, there is no affordable treatment in Guyana.
“We couldn’t do much more because we didn’t have treatment that is available so we tell them all the good things, what to avoid and not to avoid and so forth and that was it…the cost of these medications was really high,” the minister stated.
“…treatment was very costly and people couldn’t afford the treatment. So on average at one point in time, to treat a patient with Hep C it was about US$80,000. That came down to about US$20,000 and now it’s at about US$2,000,” the Health Minister pointed out.
But through this collaboration, the cost has dropped significantly.
Dr Anthony said he told PAHO’s Country Representative, Dr Luis Codina about the hefty cost and plans were then hatched for Guyana to access the treatment.
“I said we are trying to work on finding a solution here for Hepatitis C and he said we have the strategic fund and through this strategic fund because they are buying in a bundle, we could get the price quite nicely for you.”
Meanwhile, Dr Codina said the rapid tests and medication purchased by PAHO for the country arrived on Wednesday.
“This is the beginning because we know that there are a lot of Hepatitis C patients that are not diagnosed yet,” Dr Codina said.
Dr Anthony said a room was set aside at the National Care and Treatment Centre where patients can go on a specific day during the week and receive treatment.
Doctors will be present and available to conduct tests.
The PAHO Regional Revolving Fund for Strategic Public Health Supplies can secure competitive prices by establishing competitive and international sourcing. Guyana is now among several countries in the Americas to benefit from the fund as it relates to acquiring hepatitis C medication.