28 July 2015 | Statements

Unitaid sees access to hepatitis C treatments and diagnostics as top priorities

World Hepatitis Day

As World Hepatitis day is marked this year we can celebrate that a cure is available for hepatitis C, a condition often leading to fatal liver disease if left untreated. The biggest challenge now is to find effective tests to diagnose those infected and to make curative medicines affordable and accessible to those in need.

UNITAID  is working with partners on both fronts to help find a solution, as the World Health Organization calls for stepped up diagnosis and treatment. Up to 180 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C.

This year UNITAID launched a project with Médecins sans Frontières to demonstrate that wide scale hepatitis C treatment is viable. It will help overcome market-based obstacles to gaining access to the medicines, such as the lack of in-country registration of the new medicines in low- and middle-income countries where three-quarters of those infected are found. Programmes to screen, diagnose and treat patients will also be encouraged.

The investment will catalyse wide scale demand for new highly-effective medicines and aims to reduce the cost of a treatment to US$ 500-1000, a fraction of what many have to pay today, by facilitating generic production and negotiating lower prices with manufacturers.

UNITAID also recently initiated a search for new diagnostic technologies that will target an estimated 5 million people globally with HIV co-infection – 16 percent of all people living with HIV — who are especially at risk of developing serious liver disease.  Existing diagnostics are unreliable with the result that millions of people who are infected with hepatitis C go undiagnosed.

New investments in this area are expected to be announced by UNITAID later this year.

UNITAID identifies new areas for investment through continuous dialogue with countries and other global health partners to understand real challenges on the ground in tackling the diseases, and by tracking emerging potential solutions.

UNITAID will shortly publish new reports assessing the patent landscape of some key medicines for hepatitis C that are in the pipeline.  UNITAID published the first ever comprehensive report on hepatitis C diagnostics in January this year, followed by a report on hepatitis C medicines in February.

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