Hepatitis B, C patients denied free treatment

Government fails to procure required medications

Wisal Yousafzai June 16, 2024


For low-income citizens struggling hard to meet daily expenses on food, electricity, rent and schooling, the provision of free medications for chronic illnesses offers a sigh of relief. Yet, the days of ease turned out to be pretty short lived for Hepatitis B and C patients in K-P, who are no longer offered free of cost treatment for their life-threatening ailments.

For instance, 35-year-old Shahid Khan and his 70-year-old mother are among thousands of Hepatitis C patients in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa who despite being registered for free medications, have not been receiving treatment since the past one year. “Ever since public hospitals stopped the supply of free medications for Hepatitis B and C, our treatment has been halted since we cannot afford to purchase medications worth Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 from private hospitals,” regretted Khan.

“Since the last two years the provincial government has not purchased the medicines and kits which are required by almost 2,400 registered patients suffering from Hepatitis B and C in K-P. Moreover, the rapid tests and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits are also out of stock at 36 sentinel sites even though Rs482 million had been submitted for the procurement of medicines in April 2022. Furthermore, no proper surveys are conducted at the government level to register the exact number of Hepatitis B and C patients,” claimed an officer from the K-P Health Department.

“Although the K-P government had requested the federal, Punjab and Balochistan governments to provide medicines for the registered Hepatitis B and C patients in K-P, a lack of seriousness shown on part of the government and Hepatitis Control program, meant that no funds were released for the relief of the patients,” added the official.

According to Yale Medicine, Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viral illnesses, transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Although both the illnesses can be controlled through medications, their ability to cause severe gradual damage to the liver has led them to be known as the ‘silent killers’. Therefore, for a Hepatitis B or C patient to not receive timely treatment is indeed a matter of life and death.

A comparative analysis of the data obtained by the Express Tribune from the Integrated Program for Hepatitis B and C revealed that the number of patients offered treatment for Hepatitis B and C dropped from 17,983 and 35,952 in 2016-2021 to 7,500 and 11,000 in 2022-2023 respectively.

Speaking to the Express Tribune on the matter, the Provincial Coordinator for the Integrated Program for Hepatitis B, C and Thalassemia Dr Tariq Hayata said, “This matter has been discussed with the Chief Minister of K-P and he has assured us that funds will be released for the patients very soon. More than 60,000 patients of Hepatitis B and C are reported across the province. We are simultaneously working with donor agencies to provide medicines for the patients. We are trying to cover the treatment of Hepatitis B and C under the Health Insaf Card. Negotiations are underway for this but a final decision is still awaited.”


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