THE PUNJAB government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a global diagnostic firm, on Friday to help the state diagnose and treat Hepatitis C patients. Health officials said the firm would provide rapid test kits for screening of high-risk patients, including those afflicted with HIV, IVDU (Intravenous Drug Users). The MoU was signed on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day on Friday.
The state health department on Friday also released the action plan for injection safety programme, which is supported by WHO. “Punjab is also the first state in the country where the injection safety programme is being implemented in collaboration with WHO,” said state Health Minister Brahm Mohindra. He said the health department would be introducing RPS (Reuse Prevention Syringes) in the state so that blood-borne infections cannot spread from one patient to another. “Now onwards, WHO and the health department will together work in sensitising the general public regarding safe injections,” said Mohindra.
The minister said FIND would also provide four Gene Xpert machines, which would be installed in Sangrur, Bathinda, Tarn Taran and Hoshiarpur for free testing of viral load among these high-risk patients. The remaining districts would be connected to these four centres for viral load testing. During his address, Mohindra instructed the Department of Health and Medical Education and Research to prepare a study design with the support of PGIMER, Chandigarh, to know the exact risk factors regarding the spread of Hepatitis C.
According to the health minister, the staff at government medical colleges and districts has been able to put over 32,000 Hepatitis C patients on treatment till Thursday and the cure rate among these cases of Hepatitis C is approximately 93 per cent, one of the best at present. “The medicines for Hepatitis C, which have a market price of Rs 35,000-50,000 for full treatment, are being provided free of cost to Hepatitis C patients at state hospitals,” he said. According to estimates, there are around 6 lakh Hepatitis C patients in the state.