Israel: Effective drugs for carriers of hepatitis C not included in health basket

The majority of carriers are immigrants from the former Soviet Union

Hepatitis C carriers -- the majority of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union -- are a ticking bomb, as there are drugs that cure the disease but they are not in the basket of health services, according to experts who spoke at the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee on Tuesday. There are an estimated 100,000 carriers of hepatitis C who are unaware of their condition. Decades after infection, will trigger cirrhosis and liver cancer in about one-fifth of them.

The session was held to mark Israel Hepatitis Awareness Day. Hepatitis C, very common among baby boomers, immigrants and intravenous drug users, is one of the most dangerous forms of hepatitis as, unlike hepatitis B, there is no vaccine to protect against it. Carrying the virus is very common among people who received blood transfusions before 1992 when donations were tested, FSU immigrants and intravenous drug users. Every year, some 1.4 million people die from the chronic types of hepatitis. In Israel, liver diseases are the 12th most common killers of Israelis, causing three deaths per 100,000 male residents and 1.7 among females.

Committee chairman MK Yoel Razbozov of Yesh Atid, who initiated the session, charged that the Health Ministry lacks exact and current data on the number of Israelis with chronic hepatitis B and C or on the economic costs of the diseases.

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