18 April 2019

Rwanda Receives Hepatitis Drugs Donation From India

Photo: wikimedia
(file photo).

Rwanda has received $1.6 million from India worth of drugs for hepatitis B and C from India, boosting the country's efforts to contain the disease, which has been on the rise in recent years.

The supplies were handed over to the Ministry of Health on Tuesday and the Government estimates that the drugs will treat 2000 patients with hepatitis C and 5000 patients of hepatitis B.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health put the prevalence of hepatitis B and C at 4.8 per cent in Rwanda.

According to Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the Minister of State in Charge of Public and Primary Healthcare, the donation will compliment government's initiatives such as early screening and treatment of patients.

So far, up to 700,000 Rwandans have been screened for both hepatitis B and C.

Of those diagnosed with hepatitis C, 9,000 received treatment, while 1,000 patients of hepatitis B have been put on treatment.

Government plans to eliminate hepatitis C in the country in the next five years, according to Ndimubanzi.

He commended India for its support.

Hepatitis drugs are expensive. In Rwanda, many people on treatment have been supported by the Government. However, the prices have been dropping lately as manufacturing technology is getting more accessible in the pharmaceutical industry.

"In 2012 when the medicine had just been introduced, it went for about $95,000 for a complete three months dose," he said.

It later went down to $1000 before dropping to $700, he said, adding that the price keeps reducing.

Oscar Kerketta, the Indian High Commissioner to Rwanda, said that supply of low cost drugs is a key component of India's engagement with Africa.

"One key component of our engagement in health sector is supply of low cost, high quality generic drugs and medicines which have helped greatly in the fight against diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and pandemics in Africa. The cost of Indian generic medicine is a fraction of the cost in the developed world," he said.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity, from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood. This may happen through unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.

Hepatitis C can be cured. It doesn't have a vaccine though, unlike Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

Despite having a vaccine, it doesn't have a concrete cure, but there are drugs that ease it.

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