At a meeting yesterday, the Icelandic government decided to launch an initiative which aims at eradicating hepatitis C in the country, RÚV reports. Patients infected with the virus will be offered treatment with new drugs, able to cure the disease in up to 90-95 percent of cases.
The initiative is a cooperation between health care authorities and the drug company Gilead, which will supply the drug Harvoni. The medicine is a once-a-day pill, which, according to webmd, can cure the disease in most patients in 8-12 weeks. Attempts will be made to eradicate the disease and prevent its spreading further.
Those infected will be offered education, treatment and follow-up in an effort to minimize the chances of infection between people, according to a statement from the the Directorate of Health and the Ministry of Welfare. The statement indicates that conditions for such an initiative are ideal in Iceland: the population is small, health care officials have the necessary knowledge, experience and infrastructure in the health care system.
Hepatitis C is a serious and often fatal disease, which affects 180 million people worldwide. If untreated, 75-85 percent of patients infected develop chronic hepatitis C, which can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), in some cases requiring a liver transplant, according to webmd. An estimated 800-I,000 people are infected with hepatitis C in Iceland, but 40-70 individuals are diagnosed with the disease annually.
According to webmd, the virus spreads through blood or body fluids of the infected person.
The news was received enthusiastically by hepatitis C patient Fanney Björk Ásbjörnsdóttir, who was infected 32 years ago, and has long fought for the treatment to be covered.