Washington, D.C., 30 September 2019 (PAHO/WHO) — Delegates to the Pan American Health Organization’s 57th Directing Council were briefed today on PAHO’s efforts to increase countries’ access to medicines for viral hepatitis C through the Regional Revolving Fund for Strategic Public Health Supplies (PAHO Strategic Fund).

A new long-term agreement allows the PAHO Strategic Fund to buy direct-acting antiviral treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV), PAHO officials said. PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to provide countries with technical cooperation for the diagnosis of hepatitis C virus and the scale-up of national programs.

Some 85,000 people die each year in the Americas from hepatitis C, and an estimated 5.6 million people live with chronic HCV infection. Newly available treatment that countries can obtain through the PAHO Strategic Fund has proven to be successful and cost-effective at all stages of HCV infection, with cure rates between 92 and 100 percent.

Because most people living with HCV in the Americas are undiagnosed, however, countries also need to increase public awareness about HCV and ensure that HCV testing is more widely available, said PAHO experts. 

The PAHO Strategic Fund is a pooled procurement instrument that allows countries to obtain essential medicines and supplies at affordable prices. The Fund also provides countries with technical cooperation in drug supply management and procurement programming and planning at the national level.

According to PAHO data, the cost of medicines consumes up to 35% of national health budgets in countries of the Americas and represents 50-60% of household health costs in some countries. Lack of access to essential medicines is one of the key obstacles to universal health that PAHO and its Strategic Fund are helping countries to overcome.