CAIRO: Online registration for persons with hepatitis C across Egypt started Thursday morning to reserve Solvadi, the new American treatment that is scheduled to begin distribution in October.
Patients will be able to register online for the medicine starting from its opening day Sept. 18, 2014 until July 14, 2015.
Under its contract with Gilead Sciences, Egypt is expected to receive 225,000 bottles of Sovaldi with areduced price, with the ability to order more during the coming years.
Egypt has the highest prevalence of hepatitis C in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund; 14.7 percent of people between ages 15-49 have tested positive for the virus.
The new U.S. medicine, with a reported success rate of 95 percent, was hailed as a breakthrough by many medical professionals after patients used to depend on interferon injections that “were not quite efficient for all patients,” said Viral Hepatitis Committee member Dr.Gamal Esmat. He told The Cairo Post Thursday that “numerous medicines for hepatitis C patients will be announced by different companies during the coming six months.”
The Ministry of Health website lets patients who have access to internet book an examination date online instead of waiting in long queues at hospitals and medical centers.
To register, patients between 18- to 70-years-old will have to enter their name as written in the national ID as well as their ID number, their mobile number, address and their mother’s first name.
The site says it will provide patients with the appointment date and the medical center they will head to in order to receive the treatment that will start 2-4 weeks after the appointment.
Before receiving the medicine, patients will undergo a mandatory medical examinations to determine the priority of their case. According to their cases’ seriousness, some patients will be picked to receive the medicine will be treated at state expense.
The state has announced priority will be given to patients with third and fourth degrees of liver fibrosis to receive the treatment earlier than others, according to the Ministry of Health. Others were excluded due to pregnancy or serious side effects like advanced fibrosis and some cancer cases.
As serious hepatitis C cases are given treatment priority, concerns have been raised for the less urgent cases who might be left on a waiting list, or who have to buy the cure for 2,200 EGP ( $307) per pack.
The new registration website, however, confirmed that the determinants of receiving Sovaldi depend on the case status, even if the patients are going to cover the treatment on their own expenses.
Mohamed Samaha is a hemophiliac who recently discovered his infection with hepatitis C due to a blood transfer.
“I could not take interferon injections due to their bad side effects on my case, that’s why I only depend on vitamins and inefficient medicines,” he told The Cairo Post.
With his case’s status is currently stable, Samaha added, “I know that the priority is given to patients with liver fibrosis, but what about us, are we going to stay until we [hemophilia patients] get liver fibrosis? We are more vulnerable to hepatitis C as we need to have blood transfers regularly.”
Samaha added that the medical insurance he has will only pay for treatment for liver fibroses. He said, “If I had only the option of paying the money to receive the medicine, I would pay for it.”
The medicine will be available at 26 government medical centers across Egypt at price of 2,200 EGP and at private pharmacies for 14,000 EGP. The monthly treatment course at a center private expenses varies from 2,500 EGP to 3,500 EGP. Treatment can last between 3 and 6 months, and be accompanied by injections.
Esmat, member of the VH Committee, said that Egypt has now reached a “good deal” to receive Sovaldi with the discounted price, which is 1 percent of its international price.
“This is a breakthrough after we have suffered of lack of efficient cure for Hep. C for 10 years,” explained Esmat.
He continued, “we are now concerned with the patients with primary and advanced liver fibroses who cannot wait.”
“There is a medical plan set by the ministry aiming to decrease the prevalence of hepatitis C in Egypt to 2 percent,” he added.
Esmat also noted that within six months, “patients will be able to have access to many hepatitis C medicines with a success rate better than Sovaldi, and without the need of injection.”
Former head of the departments of liver and endemic diseases Ahmed Abu Madian told The Cairo Post that amid the rising of these new medicines “there is an expectation for a huge decrease in the prices of these medicines when they become generic.”