20,000 Georgians to Receive Free Hepatitis C Treatment

TBILISI – Up to 20,000 Georgian citizens suffering from hepatitis C will take part in a program launched by local government with the support of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at treating and preventing the virus.

Georgia ranks third - after Egypt and Mongolia - on the world list of hepatitis C sufferers, with nearly 7 per cent of the country’s adults classified as carriers of the virus.

According to a 2002 survey of the 1.5 million residents in Georgia’s largest capital Tbilisi, HCV infection is highest amongst people in prison (50%), injection drug users (50–70%) and those who are HIV positive (47%).

According to Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the initial phase of the program treated 5,000 patients in 2015.

"It is very important to note that more than $2 million were allocated for this program. I want to thank the US Government and the US Embassy in Georgia for this. I would also like to thank the company Gilead, without which it would have been impossible to even dream of solving this problem. Today, more than 7,000 patients are involved in the program and more than 3,000 have completed the treatment," Kvirikashvili said.

The program’s second phase aims to treat up to 20,000 patients annually.

American pharmaceutical company Gilead, which produces the highly effective but costly Sovaldi and Harvoni tablets at €110,000 per person for one course, provides pills free of charge to Georgian citizens as test market patients.

Georgia’s Health Minister Davit Sergeenko has emphasized that the Harvoni tablet is a new Hepatitis C medication combining Sofosbuvir and Ledipasvir, which provides nearly a 100 percent cure.

By Tamar Svanidze

Edited by Nicholas Waller

07 March 2016 17:19