Six million Egyptians were infected with hepatitis C by unsterile needles during the country’s decades-long fight against schistosomiasis. Today, at least 10 percent of Egyptians, nearly nine million people, are chronically infected, the highest rate in the world.
But a grand experiment unfolding across the country may change all that.
Once demonized for withholding lifesaving AIDS drugs from poor countries in Africa, chastened pharmaceutical companies are testing an alternative strategy: a complicated deal to sell hepatitis drugs at a fraction of their usual cost while imposing tight restrictions intended to protect lucrative markets in the West. If the strategy succeeds, though, the arrangement in Egypt may serve as a blueprint not just for curing hepatitis around the world, but also for providing other cutting-edge medicines to citizens in poor countries who could never afford them.
As a growing hepatitis C epidemic comes to light across India, despite national differences in medicines licensing and regulation, the approach taken in Egypt may lead a way to delivering access to the treatment millions need.