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Life-saving hepatitis C drug in Kenya, but cost is high

Health & Science

Kenya will pilot a life-saving drug that reduces the span of treatment for Hepatitis C.

The new drug, Harvoni, released by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, promises a breakthrough in Hepatitis C treatment.

It is orally administered, reduces the treatment span to 12 weeks, has fewer side effects and, if used in combination with other drugs, can achieve a 90 per cent cure rate.

Médicins Du Monde Programme Co-ordinator Sally Loos said more needed to be done to lobby for affordable medicine for resource-strapped communities in Kenya because the drug is costly.

According to National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop) Programmes Manager Key Populations Helgar Musyoki, the pilot project is available in six clinics in the country.

Ms Musyoki said Kenya was also seeking generic drugs to be able to sustain the treatment, which currently costs Sh400,000.

Direct contact

“Part of our advocacy strategy is is to negotiate for generic drugs that are cheaper treatment options, like what we launched for HIV recently,” she said.

Hepatitis C, which is spread through direct contact with infected blood, is mainly transmitted through unsafe injections in health facilities.

The virus causes an inflammatory condition of the liver and the spectrum of the disease varies from a mild illness lasting weeks to a chronic life-long condition that can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer and finally death. 

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