Improving access to the treatment of hepatitis C in low- and middle-income countries: evaluation of a patient assistance programme

Salamat Ali, Tofeeq Ur-Rehman, Mashhood Ali, Sayeed Haque, Faisal Rasheed, Eleri Lougher, Muhammad Sarfraz Nawaz, Vibhu Paudyal

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Background Modern antiviral treatments have high cure rates against the hepatitis C virus however, the high cost associated with branded medicines and diagnostic tests, have resulted in poor access for many low-income patients residing in low-and-middle-income countries. Objective This study aimed to evaluate the role of a patient assistance programme and generic medicines in improving access to treatment of low-income hepatitis C patients in a low-and-middle-income country. Setting A major teaching public hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan. Methods Hepatitis C patients who presented and enrolled for the patient assistance programme during 12 months (1st July 2015 and 30th June 2016) were included. Demography, prescription characteristics, the total costs of Hepatitis C treatment, medicine cost supported by the programme, out-of-pocket cost borne by the patient and average cost effectiveness ratio per sustained virologic response were calculated and compared for different generic and branded regimens. Main outcome measure cost contribution of patient assistance programme. Results A total of 349 patients initiated the treatment through the programme and of those 334 (95.7%) completed the prescribed treatment. There were 294 (88.02%) patients who achieved sustained virologic response. Patient assistance programme contributed medicines cost averaging 60.28-86.26% of the total cost of treatment ($1634.6) per patient. The mean (SE) cost per patient for generic option (Sofosbuvir/Ribavirin) was the lowest [$658.36 (22.3) per patient, average cost effectiveness ratio = $720.1/SVR] than branded option (Sovaldi/Ribavirin) [$2218.66 (37.6) per patient, average cost effectiveness ratio = $2361.8/SVR] of the three available treatment regimens. From patients' perspectives, the mean (SE) out-of-pocket cost was $296.9 (6.7) which primarily included diagnostic cost (69.9%) of the total cost. Conclusions Patient assistance programme, combined with generic brands of newer hepatitis C treatment offered a significant reduction in cost and widens access to hepatitis C treatment in low-and middle-income countries. However, substantial out-of-pocket costs of the treatment presents an important barrier for service access. There is a scope to widen such financial assistance programme to offer other costs attributed to patients, specifically for diagnosis, to widen service use in low-and-middle-income countries.

Original languageEnglish
Journal International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy
Early online date28 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Nov 2020


  • Access to drugs
  • Generic medicines
  • Hepatitis C treatment
  • Lower-middle-income country
  • Patient assistant programme


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