High cost of treatment, lack of drugs bane of Hepatitis patients

BY: Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
 Dr Yvonne Nartey, a Physician Specialist at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital
Dr Yvonne Nartey, a Physician Specialist at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital

More than half of people with Hepatitis B in the country do not receive treatment due to the high cost of drugs and their non-availability at public health facilities.

Even though the Upper East and the Upper West regions have high cases of the disease, there are not enough testing machines and treatment centres in that part of the country.

This was contained in a survey to establish the burden of Hepatitis B and C in the country.

The survey, therefore, recommended that drugs for the treatment of the disease be put on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

According to the survey, which was conducted by the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, the elimination of the disease by 2030 could only be achieved if the cost of treatment was put on the NHIS.

Meeting

At a meeting in Accra on hepatitis evaluations to amplify testing and treatment (HEAT), the lead researcher, Dr Yvonne Nartey, who is also a physician specialist at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, said the cost involved in testing and the treatment of the disorder deterred many people, including expectant mothers, from ascertaining their status.

Data were collected from five teaching hospitals, six regional hospitals, three district hospitals, four Christian Health Association of Ghana hospitals, one quasi hospital and two public health reference laboratories for the research.

According to the report, hospital laboratories recorded 101,547 Hepatitis C status from 2016 to 2020 and 1,269 Hepatitis B profile records from 2019 to 2021.

Blood donation accounted for 35,458 Hepatitis C from 2017 to 2020; pregnant women recorded 7,585 antenatal clinic cases between 2018 and 2020, while 83,920 cirrhosis and liver failure problems related to Hepatitis killed 1,058 patients from 2017 to 2020.

Dr Nartey, who is also an epidemiologist, said the Upper East, Upper West and Savannah regions had a high burden of Hepatitis B and C nationwide, adding that the failure on the part of patients to test for Hepatitis C, partly due to little or no knowledge of its existence and the cost involved, resulted in more cases of Hepatitis B being recorded than Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a disease characterised by inflammation of the liver by the Hepatitis virus. It can be contracted through unprotected sex, saliva, semen, vaginal secretions and contaminated shared needles and syringes and sweat.

In terms of mortality, Hepatitis B and C infections are said to be on the same level with HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

In 2016, the 194 member states of the World Health Organisation committed to eliminate viral Hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030, with a particular focus on Hepatitis B and C infection.

The Programme Manager, the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme, GHS, Dr Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwawu, said more awareness would be created of the disease, adding: “We need to have appropriate healthcare centres, test kits and also where people can easily go and access treatment."

The President of the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, Dr Theobald Owusu-Ansah, called on the government to help train more physicians to help in the testing and treatment of Hepatitis cases.

He advised the youth to endeavour to regularly check their Hepatitis status to be sure of their status to know the next appropriate step to take.

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