BARCELONA — A year after the Portuguese government approved oral treatment for hepatitis C virus for all infected patients, a presenter here showed the country achieved a 96% sustained virologic response rate.
“It has been possible to cure 96% in the real world. A lot of patients with cirrhosis, a lot without cirrhosis,” Rui Tato Marinho, MD, PhD, specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Hospital S. Maria Medical School, Lisbon, said during a media event sponsored by Gilead Sciences.
Marinho detailed his efforts and those of patient advocacy groups from appearing on national television 20 times to speaking at the Portuguese National Authority of Medicines and Health Products “almost 30 times” and appealing to the Minister of Health for universal treatment.
The most important thing, Marinho said, was to present the numbers and to present them “as a team” of patients and physicians working together.
Portugal approved treatment of all people with HCV on February 17, 2015. As of April 8, 2016, Marinho reported treatment initiated in 7,011 patients. Of those who have completed their treatment (n = 2,138), 96% achieved SVR.
“There has been a burden for the hepatologists” with new physicians coming from Brazil and Romania to treat hepatitis C in Portugal, Marinho said. “I’ve been treating 300 patients. It’s amazing to treat — to cure — almost 300 patients.”
When asked what is next for Portugal, Marinho said: “The main thing is to cure and to treat patients with high efficacy, but we need a national plan to organize ourselves. We have 2,000 patients in prisons with hepatitis C. We have 60% of HCV infection in the drug addiction setting, which is 1% of the population. We have to identify the patients because it is a silent disease.”
Also speaking at the event, John F. Dillon, MD, MBBS, FRCP, from the University of Dundee in Scotland said, “If Portugal can do it, there’s no excuse for any developed country not to deliver. They didn’t have the economic strengths of some of the other countries so if Portugal can decide to do it and commit to do it, anywhere should be able to do it.” – by Katrina Altersitz
Disclosure: Marinho and Dillon spoke at a Gilead-sponsored media event.