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PIL against apathy for Nagaland HepC patients


Guwahati, June 21: Four Nagaland-based groups working for HIV positive people and those who are hepatitis C positive will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Centre and the Nagaland Government for their alleged negligence in combating the diseases and treating Hep C patients.
Activists of Access to Rights and Knowledge Foundation (ARK), Nagaland Users’ Network (Nun), Network of Naga People Living with HIV/AIDS (NNP+) and Hepatitis Coalition of Nagaland (HepCon) alleged that though hepatitis C has emerged as a major cause of concern in recent years, not much has been done by the state Government to prevent its spread at an alarming rate.
“There is no proper strategy to tackle the epidemic affecting Nagaland and even the guidelines have not been made public. Both the Centre and the Nagaland Government have not taken any step to address the issue and provide treatment. So the 4 groups have decided to file a PIL against the Centre and the state Government within this month,” HepCon secretary and coordinator of NUN Ketholelie Angami, said.
Treatment of hepatitis C lasts from 6 months to 1 year.
The activists of the 4 groups said deaths related to HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) have been reported and patients continue to die from lack of awareness and high cost of treatment.
“There is no proper programme on HCV in Nagaland and programmes taken up by the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) focus on injecting drug users (IDUs) for HIV prevention, overlooking the seriousness of HCV infection,” Angami said.
The IDU community remains susceptible to HCV infection which came to light through research data documented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). An Integrated Bio-Behavioural Assessment (IBBA) study done among IDUs in 2006-09 revealed that HCV prevalence rate in Phek district was 5.4% in 2006 which increased to 8.7% in 2009.
It was 16.7% in 2006 and went up to 20.8% in Wokha district.
According to a 7-year rapid screening report of Naga Hospital Authority of Kohima (NHAK), the presence of HCV virus among general population was 1.8%. HCV epidemic is not only a matter of concern; the treatment cost is exorbitant.
The NHAK, along with MSD, a pharmaceutical company, had established a liver clinic, providing free diagnostics regarding antibody, RNA and genotyping, besides availability of treatment with medicines like Pegylated Interferon (Veraferon-Alfa 2B) and Ribavirin.
A single vial costs Rs 18,000, but MSD has reduced its price to Rs 9,000 per vial.
Pegihep, another treatment product, is priced at Rs 5,250. Sofosbuvir/Daclatasvir or Sofosbuvir/Ledipasvir, is sold for Rs 8,500 a month but Velpatasvir, a new drug, is comparatively higher priced. (TTNE)