Santiago lauds govt’s Hepatitis-C move, wants same for cancer

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PETALING JAYA: Praising the government for its move to drastically reduce the cost of treatment for Malaysians who suffer from Hepatitis-C, a DAP MP said the same should be done for those having cancer.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the health ministry’s move to invoke the “compulsory licence” or “government use” provisions as permitted by the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, should not stop at just Hepatitis-C.

“It is estimated that about 100,000 Malaysians live with cancer at any one time and it is the third biggest killer in the country. Some statistics show one in four Malaysians will have cancer by the age of 75.

“But patients struggle with high cost of medication, loss of income, loss of lifetime savings, rising cost of living, budget cuts for healthcare, weak management of the healthcare system and other commitments such as mortgage, rent and school fees.

“These were the same concerns faced by Hepatitis-C patients until now,” Santiago said in a statement.

He added that a 2015 survey showed that nearly half of Malaysian cancer patients were financially broke one year after diagnosis.

Last Thursday, Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the cabinet had approved the use of Rights of Government under Patent Act 1983 (Act 291) by exploiting the patented invention of the Sofosbuvir tablet 400mg, allowing the cost of treatment for Hepatitis-C to be drastically reduced.

“Hepatitis C has become a major public health concern in Malaysia, therefore it is crucial to increase access to treatment for the benefit of the nation,” he had said.

The move would reduce the cost of treatment for Hepatitis-C from about RM50,000, to RM500 per patient.

Santiago said this was not the first time the government had taken such measures for the good of the people.

“In 2003, the government issued the same provision to enable the import of two combination HIV-AIDS drugs from an Indian generic company. This resulted in the cost to fall and it was estimated that three times more patients were treated.

“These actions clearly show that the government needs a political will to make public health accessible and affordable to its people,” he said, adding that a pro-active government can help to regulate prices of medicine in the interests of the people.

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