MoH, FIND to develop new Hep C diagnostic tests

The findings could cut the treatment for Hepatitis C to just under RM1,200, from current RM387,000

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is collaborating with the Foundation for Innovation New Diagnostics (FIND) to look into the research and development (R&D) of a new Hepatitis C diagnostic test.

MoH, via its non-profit company Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with FIND to research and develop new innovative Hepatitis C diagnostic tests gathered from government health facilities’ screened data.

The clinical trial will be applied along with the Drug for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), which forms part of a larger FIND project known as Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics, supported by Unitaid. (Unitaid is the International Drug Purchase Facility established by Brazil, France, Chile, Norway and the UK.)

MoH believes the project will enable the screening of 50,000 people, of which 1,200 will require treatment, as well as ongoing DNDi clinical trial.

“The evidence generated by both projects (screening as well as R&D of new innovative diagnostics kits) will allow the national guidelines for the management of Hepatitis C to be more empowered backed by evidence-based medicine,” Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said during the MoU signing ceremony in Putrajaya yesterday.

Dr Dzulkefly said the clinical trial is expected to be completed in two years.

Hepatitis C is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases caused by the Hepatitis C virus, which affects the liver.

There are more than 400,000 people reported to be infected with the disease in Malaysia.

About 2.5% are adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years old. Hepatitis C virus-related death in the country is projected to hit 60,000 by 2039.

MoH’s collaboration with FIND is part of the ministry’s effort to make Hepatitis C diagnosis more accessible in decentralised primary healthcare facilities in the country, as well as to provide cheaper treatment should the research was successful.

The findings of this trial have the potential to bring down the treatment for Hepatitis C to just under RM1,200, from the current RM387,000, using the innovator drug. CRM CEO Dr Akhmal Yusof and FIND chief access officer Zachary Katz signed the MoU, witnessed by Dr Dzulkefly and Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

For now, 25 primary healthcare facilities in the country, including 22 public hospitals nationwide, that provide treatment for the virus have been identified to apply the rapid Hepatitis C diagnostic test.

The initiative is in line with the World Health Organisation’s goal to get 90% of the population screened and diagnosed, and 80% treated by 2030.