Low-cost Hepatitis C cure showing good results in Thailand
A new combination of drugs that is a quarter of current cost of treatment is successful in the first phase of tests
By Apinya Wipatayotin
The first phase of clinical tests for an affordable Hepatitis C treatment has yielded a high cure rate, according to Thailand’s Department of Disease Control.
Started in 2016, the clinical trial testing the combined set of Sofosbuvir+Ravidasvir with 81 patients showed 97 per cent of them reacted positively to the treatment, Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, chief of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) says.
“It’s a good sign telling us that patients with Hepatitis C will have the opportunity to access medicine at an affordable price. It is also a significant step for our hopes of eliminating the disease in the future,” said Mr Suwanchai.
Currently, the country’s Hepatitis C patients pay 40,000 baht (US$1,254) to use commercially registered drugs throughout the course of treatment. The combined set of Sofosbuvir+Ravidasvir will cost patients 10,000 baht (US$315). The lower price stems from Ravidasvir, which is set to be registered and sold at a low price.
Currently, Ravidasvir is not registered in Thailand. The trial project received the Ravidasvir from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), an international non-profit organisation that provides affordable medication to poor patients.
The trial was conducted in cooperation with the DDC, the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the DNDi.
Ravidasvir is the product of a US-based firm, Presidio Pharmaceuticals, which granted the DNDi the rights to provide the drug at reasonable prices in low- and middle-income countries.
Mr Suwanchai said the department will soon begin the second stage of the clinical trial, to be conducted with 300 HCV patients. The trial is expected to take up to two years. But the DNDi refused to spell out the exact timeline for when the drug combination would be available on the market.
DNDi director Isabelle Andrieux-Meyer said clinical trials have been conducted in many countries, including the United States, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and those in the Middle East. She said that the DNDi is going to register the drug in many countries, including Thailand.
The drug combination can help patients also suffering from HIV, said Ms Andrieux-Meyer.
The World Health Organisation reports there are 71 million people living with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is regarded as a communicable disease transmitted via blood and sexual contact. The disease can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.