Sun, Jul 31, 2016 - Page 3 News List

NHI to cover new oral drug to treat hepatitis C: official

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

An oral drug for hepatitis C will be covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) program from next year, Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said yesterday.

Lin made the announcement at an international conference hosted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) celebrating the 30th anniversary of universal hepatitis B vaccinations in Taiwan.

The CDC said that after 30 years of universal hepatitis B vaccinations for infants in Taiwan, the carrier rate for the disease in children younger than six fell from 10.5 percent to less than 0.8 percent, but there are still more than 1 million chronic hepatitis B carriers in the nation.

The CDC advised carriers to undergo regular health checks to screen for cirrhosis and liver cancer.

According to the CDC’s statistics, there are 400,000 to 700,000 people infected with hepatitis C in the nation, while the Taiwan Association for the Study of the Liver estimated that 550,000 people with hepatitis C are in need of treatment.

Common treatment methods for hepatitis C usually have side effects and the price of new oral drugs is too high, so some worry that NHI subsidies for other diseases will be reduced if new hepatitis C drugs are covered by the program.

Lin said that a national program for the prevention, screening and treatment of hepatitis C is being planned, and the NHI Administration intends to negotiate with three pharmaceutical firms to provide new medicines for hepatitis C that are cheaper than those in South Korea.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare is also to cooperate with medical centers to create a hepatitis C registry to ensure that patients can receive proper treatment at different stages of the disease based on various factors, including the NHI budget, drug prices and the number of cases, the minister said, adding that the inclusion of the drug for hepatitis C into the NHI coverage would not affect the funds allocated for the treatment of other diseases.

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