Treating hepatitis C early saves money, says study. Now, for the political will

Cost of treatment for hepatitis C with generic drugs in India is much cheaper than in Europe or United States.

Hepatitis C can and should be treated early in India and new research shows how cost effective this is. Generic drugs for treating hepatitis C manufactured in India cost just $300 or approximately Rs 19,000 for a complete three-month course of the three drugs sofosbuvir, ledipasvir and daclatasvir. In the United States, the same treatment costs nearly $65,000. The costs in India reduce even further if government bodies purchase the drugs in bulk.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral disease that can be either acute or chronic. An illness from the infection can last a few weeks or can be a lifelong affliction. The disease is transmitted through exposure to small quantities of blood as in through shared injection drug use, unsterilised medical equipment and transfusion of unscreened blood. It also can be transmitted sexually or from an infected mother to her baby. Those with a chronic infection may develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer in the long run.

According to the World Health Organisation, India is has a burden of at least six million chronically infected hepatitis C patients. An estimated 59,000 deaths occurred from the disease in India in 2015.

A study published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS One shows that providing early treatment not only saved lives, it increased life expectancy by eight years and reduced lifetime health costs by $1,309 per person treated. The treatment became cost-effective within two years, the study said.

Complications of not treating hepatitis C include liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. Some patients also develop liver cancer and may need liver transplantation. The treatment for these complications are difficult and may cost many lakhs of rupees.

“Running a programme for hepatitis C will only be beneficial to the government in the long run,” said Dr Rakesh Aggarwal, one of the authors from the gastroenterology department at Lucknow’s Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences. “Despite the drugs being cheaper in India, a lot of people do not take treatment. Some are not able to afford treatment. Some do not understand the implications of not taking treatment. We need to make them understand that it is only beneficial in the long run to take treatment.”

The Punjab model

In 2016, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority capped the price of sofosbuvir, the major drug used to treat hepatitis C to Rs 619 per tablet.

The Punjab government is the only state government that provides treatment for people living with hepatitis C free of cost in all its 22 district hospitals and three medical colleges.

“We showed that the effectiveness of treatment with generic drugs is 95%,” said Dr RK Dhiman, from the department of hepatology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. Dhiman said that the Punjab government procures the drug for one-third the cost – at only $110 for the three-month course.

The costs of diagnosis of the disease is high at around Rs 3,000 compared to diagnosis of other diseases. “We are trying to bring down the cost of the diagnostics to $6 to $10 (Rs 400 to Rs 650),” said Dr Dhiman.

The WHO advises testing of high risk patients such as injectable narcotic drug users, people who are sexual partners of hepatitis C infected patients, people living with HIV, prisoners and people who have tattoos or piercings for the disease.

Haryana provides free treatment for hepatitis C infected people living below the poverty line at Rohtak’s Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education. In Manipur, patients can apply for reimbursement for hepatitis C treatment. In Mizoram, hospitals empanelled under the Mizoram State Health Care Scheme provide treatment under the state insurance scheme.

Scale up treatment

“The study makes a compelling case for a public health programme to scale up hepatitis C treatment with generic direct acting antivirals in India,” said Leena Menghaney, from Médecins Sans Frontières’s Access Campaign. Direct acting antivirals like sofosbuvir target specific proteins in the hepatitis C virus and disrupt its replication and infection.

“In the absence of a public health approach from the Indian health ministry to scale up prevention, testing and treatment to those most at risk of Hepatitis C infection, we will not see major public health benefits and new infections will continue to rise despite the availability of affordable generic hepatitis C medicines in the private sector,” Menghaney added.

Loon Gangte, South Asia regional coordinator for the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition who works on advocacy for treatment of hepatitis C, said that despite the costs of treatment going down, the Indian government has not shown much interest in providing treatment.

“We do not even have national data for hepatitis C, let alone a programme,” said Gangte. “If the Government of India buys the medicines, it will be much cheaper. But there is no political will.”

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of and not by the Scroll editorial team.