Worldwide, an estimated 71 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus, double the number living with HIV.
While hepatitis C can be cured, few people have access to treatment.
A blood-borne virus that attacks the liver, hepatitis C kills nearly 400,000 people each year, mostly from resulting complications, usually cirrhosis or liver cancer.
While hepatitis C is found worldwide, the vast majority of people with the disease live in developing countries; China, India, Egypt and Indonesia are particularly affected.
Hepatitis C is a curable disease, but millions don’t have access to treatment due to high prices.
Direct-acting antiviral medicines (DAAs) represent a treatment breakthrough for people with hepatitis C. Yet access to DAAs has been limited because pharmaceutical corporations charge unaffordable prices and, in some places, have blocked the entry of affordable generics with patents. This has led many countries to reserve treatment only for people with the most advanced stages of the disease.
Hepatitis C diagnosis and monitoring is complex, involving multiple tests and resulting in an expensive and resource-intensive process. Laboratory-based tests to measure hepatitis C viral load – needed to confirm active infection and monitor the effectiveness of treatment – are complex, requiring well-resourced laboratories and skilled staff. Simpler, affordable tests that are suitable for use in resource-limited settings are needed to enable access to hepatitis C treatment for all who need it.
For access to treatment to be scaled up worldwide, the price of DAA drugs urgently needs to come down. Competition among generic producers is already driving down prices, but many countries are not able to access these generic versions because of patent barriers. As a result, countries are having to ration treatment to people. To overcome this and ensure affordable access, MSF is challenging the patent barriers in China and Europe through legal oppositions in court cases.