Hepatitis – Low Cost Drugs in Pakistan

Hepatitis is fatal disease of liver and in Pakistan there are millions of hepatitis patients. The hepatitis  drugs  are very expensive and ordinary poor Pakistani can not afford them and died as result. A large batch of interferon injection produced indigenously by researchers in Pakistan for the poor patients of hepatitis will expire in December 2010 due to indifference attitude of authorities. Research work was done at the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMP) and Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC) in 2008 where interferon was replicated to reduce the cost of hepatitis.

Hepatitis C is the number one killer disease in Pakistan and infected predominantly, if not exclusively the poor and middle-class people. The group cloned interferon injection to make it available in the local market at the price far lower than that of imported vials of the injection.

Import bill of interferon was Rs 1.1 billion in 2005, Rs 1.4 billion in 2006 and Rs. 3 billion in 2009. Despite the massive spending only five per cent of hepatitis patients got properly diagnosed and treated while 90% died. Recently all the brands are beyond the reach of poor people.

The proposal for indigenous production of interferon has been pending with the federal ministry of health and the Pakistan medical research council (PMRC). If delay persists, 100000 interferon injections produced a couple of years ago will expire next month, resulting in the wastage of research effort and material resources.

Hepatitis C patient had to take three injections per week and the treatment continued for 6 to 18 months, depending on the intensity of the virus. On an average, the diagnosis and follow-up cost more than Rs 50000 per patient, with total cost of treatment often amounting to Rs 150,000. a dose of local interferon cost Rs 70 whereas the price of the imported medicine was Rs 6000 to 9000.

A researcher said that if and when this research, which led to the indigenous production of 18 imported pharmaceutical proteins, was allowed to reach the poor patient, Pakistan would benefit greatly in the shape of foreign exchange savings and minimising the suffering of millions.

Lahore High Court on 12 November 2010 issued notice after petition filed that health ministry be directed not to create hurdles in the production of locally produced hepatitis medicine. Justice sought a written reply form secretaries of health and science and technology and executive director of the Pakistan Medical Research Council.

This is really depressing situation because in Pakistan there are more than 12 million patients of Hepatitis and government is not doing enough for those people. Now, when researches successfully made a low cost medicine for poor, indifferent attitude of government machinery not allowing them to use.