Hepatitis C treatment to be provided free of charge

 Parliamentary Ombudsman and Health ministry agree to provide urgent Hepatitis C treatment free of charge.

New treatment for Hepatitis C has been approved, allowing those cases which fall within specific criteria, or are declared as ‘urgent’, to be given the treatment free of charge, the office of the Ombudsman said in a statement.

The treatment, which costs some €75,000 per patient, will be provided by the Government health service.

Speaking during a meeting between parliamentary ombudsman Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, and himself, health parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne said that the amount of doses which the government will procure would be over and above those donated by the manufacturers through the personal intervention of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

Fearne also assured the Ombudsman that patients who become eligible under the set criteria would be given the treatment straight away.

“There will be a committee of Consultants to vet the medical files to ensure that all the selected patients satisfy the criteria,” he added.

The statement adds that the established criteria for treatment with the newly available medicines has been drawn up in agreement with the specialists involved in the treatment of such patients.

“While not all the patients who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C especially alcoholics and those drug abusers, may not be eligible for the newly available treatment (Harvoni Regime and Rebavirin) unless they are free from their habit for quite some time, there are however a number of other patients who would benefit greatly from this new treatment which is declared to cure as much as 95% of the patients,” the statement adds.

Last August, Said Pullicino had asked Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anglu Farrugia to refer a report on complaints regarding medicines for the treatment of Hepatitis C, to the Health Committee.

Despite earlier lengthy correspondence, the health department did not agree with the Ombudsman’s recommendation presumably for financial reasons, to provide treatment to patients suffering from Hepatitis C, the statement added. 

During the meeting between Fearne and Said Pullicino on Monday, the Ombudsman reminded the Fearne that the availability of Glargine Insulin to Type 2 diabetics is also pending.

“Such insulin is currently only available to Type 1 diabetics. There is also an issue with the supply of adequate number of Haemoglucotest (HGT) blood testing sticks in line with recognised need for the proper treatment of diabetes to those over the age of eighteen who are certified to require to test their blood sugar levels more than twice a day.”

Fearne confirmed that these two issues are under consideration with a view to be hopefully available as indicated by next year.  

“However, another new treatment is being introduced i.e. Gliptins, and it is possible that the patients in question will be adequately controlled by this new treatment and may not therefore necessarily need to have the Glargine Insulin,” he added.