Patients infected with hepatitis B and C virus, will soon be able to avail free treatment. Eight model treatment centres in Maharashtra, including the Sion Hospital, Mumbai, will roll out free treatment for hepatitis C from March while that for hepatitis B will be rolled out from July.
Viral hepatitis is a global public health problem that kills nearly 2.72 lakh people annually. It is an inflammatory condition of the liver caused by five known hepatitis viruses — A, B,C,D and E. Of these, B and C are known to cause 96% mortality. Vikas Sheel, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said on Sunday at the launch of the national action plan, that operational guidelines for hepatitis C were formed last year. “We have now released the guidelines for hepatitis B,” he said adding that the comprehensive action plan will focus on curbing mother-to-child transmission by improving the coverage of hepatitis B injection given at birth. While hepatitis B requires life-long treatment which costs around ₹2,500 per month, hepatitis C requires a 84-day long course costing nearly ₹40,000. “The government has however, managed to procure this course for around ₹2,200 which is a big development,” said Dr. Aakash Shukla, head of gastroenterology department, Sion Hospital.
Hepatitis B and C are transmitted by unsafe injection practices, infected blood and blood products, sexual transmission and from mother to child. The infections can progress to cirrhosis and liver cancers.
According to the action plan, one model hepatitis treatment centre will be established in each State in a government institution in the first year. While the number of model centres will be increased gradually, by the end of the second year, efforts will be made to establish one such centre at district level. Setting up a national reference laboratory and State-level reference laboratories is also under planning.
Launching the action plan to tackle hepatitis B, actor Amitabh Bachchan said on Sunday he will do everything required to spread awareness and combat the disease. Infected with hepatitis B, Mr. Bachchan has been living with only 25% functional liver. “We must pay a lot of attention on detection,” said Mr. Bachchan adding that he is particularly concerned about the discrimination against women due to the infection. “I have heard stories about married women being thrown out of their houses. It is not acceptable,” he said.
Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Chaoubey and State health minister Eknath Shinde were also present at the launch.