Malaysia as the Destination for Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Today, November 16, 2021, I attended an invitation from the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council to attend the launch event of Malaysia as the Destination for Hepatitis C Treatment by YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Health Malaysia, taking place during insigHT2021 in Kuala Lumpur. This event will be held for 3 days until November 18, 2021.

This hybrid event was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So the invitees can attend in Mandarin Oriental Hotel or online attendance through the virtual platform. And of course, for this time I attended from my home, aka online attendance. But don't worry, I will still share what I got while attending the virtual event for loyal readers of

insigHT2021, the region’s leading medical travel market intelligence conference, featured the launch of Malaysia as the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia by Minister of Health Malaysia, Yang Berhormat Khairy Jamaluddin. Being the first country in the world to be given conditional approval for Ravidasvir in combination with Sofosbuvir to treat Hepatitis C, Malaysia is poised to offer access to an affordable and efficacious treatment solution for those infected with the virus.

“In response to the World Hepatitis Day 2021 theme, “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”, Malaysia is ready and raring to move forward with a treatment solution for those infected with the disease. This is in line with WHO’s mission to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90% and reduce deaths by viral hepatitis by 65% by 2030. Malaysia is offering Hepatitis C patients a treatment with a cure rate of 97% and cost reduction of 95%,” said YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Health Malaysia at the insigHT2021 opening ceremony.

Commenting on this new treatment offering, Pharmaniaga Berhad Group Managing Director Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope added, "Through our expertise in supply, logistics and distribution of Hepatitis-C Drug to MHTC's Member Hospitals, we are proud to contribute to the shared goal of both Malaysia and World Health Organisation to eliminate Hepatitis-C by 2030. In creating access to treatment for local and international patients in need, we partner in the vision of Forging Resilience, further propelling the medical travel industry forward.”

insigHT2021 is hosted virtually from 16 to 18 November and is anchored by Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), an agency under the Ministry of Health tasked to facilitate and promote the healthcare travel industry in Malaysia. Carrying the theme ‘Forging Resilience’, the conference features insights on post-pandemic recovery strategies and opportunities for industry resilience with topics such as reimaging the health system, the future of healthcare and well-being, and rebuilding hospitality delivered by renowned local and international industry experts.

“insigHT has played a significant role as a platform for creating tangible and valuable outcomes, which benefit industry players and healthcare travellers. Having endured the brunt of the pandemic, it is even more important now to optimise platforms such as these in revitalising our industry”, said Chief Executive Officer of MHTC, Mohd Daud Mohd Arif. 

In its sixth installation, insigHT2021 also serves as a catalyst for cross collaboration, attracting industry players across various sectors of the value chain to enhance Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry. TMOne, the digital partner for insigHT2021 has played an instrumental role in driving digitalisation of key touchpoints along the healthcare travel journey.

“Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) through TM ONE, is excited to be the Digital Partner for insigHT by MHTC for the third consecutive year. This is in line with our commitment to empower Malaysia's healthcare industry players with end-to-end digital solutions that will enable them to move forward amidst global challenges. Digital services such as the accelerated adoption of telemedicine, smart health and digital infrastructure are essential to sustain and grow the medical travel industry,” said Imri Mokhtar, Group Chief Executive Officer, TM.

“We are ready to support and facilitate this, as it is in line with our move of becoming a human-centred technology company, making people’s lives better through innovative digital solutions, and befitting of our unique role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia,” he added.

Okay, now let's get to know more about Hepatitis C and its treatment in Malaysia

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Who is at risk for Hepatitis C?

  • Current or past intravenous drug users
  • Received blood transfusion or solid organ transplants before July 1992
  • Received blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for Hepatitis C 
  • Currently undergoing dialysis 
  • HIV infected persons
  • Intranasal drugs users
  • Those with body piercing or tattoo with non-sterile instruments
  • Exposed to unprotected high risk sexual behavior

What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis C is a silent disease and symptoms can go unnoticed for nearly a decade, risking infection through asymptomatic individuals. Over time, the virus will compromise the health of the liver which could lead to death if left untreated.

Those who develop symptoms, typically between 2 - 12 weeks after exposure may experience symptoms such as yellow skin or eyes, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, stomach pain, fever, dark urine, light-colored stool, joint pain, and feeling tired.

How do you know you have it?

Regular screenings are the best option for early detection. Many regular health checks do not include screening for Hepatitis C. Therefore, make sure to specifically request for Hepatitis C screening.

What is the current treatment offered globally?

Direct acting antivirals or DAA (Example: Ravidasvir, Sofosbuvir, Daclatasvir and Velpatasvir) are a newer generation of powerful Hepatitis C treatments which can treat patients in three to six months.

What will be the new treatment that will be available in Malaysia, available for foreign patients?

The new treatment available will be a new drug compound called Ravidasvir. Ravidasvir is the first DAA to be developed through South-South Cooperation with funding and clinical support from non-profit organisations. Ravidasvir combined with Sofosbuvir offers an affordable and efficacious treatment for Hepatitis C. 

Is Malaysia the first country to receive approval for Ravidasvir?

Yes. In July 2021, Malaysia became the first country in the world to receive conditional approval for Ravidasvir in combination with Sofosbuvir to treat Hepatitis C. It is currently licensed solely to Pharmaniaga by Pharco Pharmaceutical.

When will the treatment that involves Ravidasvir be available?

January 2022

What is the benefit of treatment? Why would foreign patients come to Malaysia to get this treatment?

  • 97% cure rate
  • Effective for all genotypes (a genotype is an individual's collection of genes)
  • Effective for individuals with HIV – Hepatitis C co-infection patients
  • No clinically significant drug-to-drug interaction. Hence, it is safe for patients who are currently taking anti-retroviral medication for HIV infection.
  • Ribavirin free treatment.
  • Minimal treatment monitoring
  • Low rates of adverse effects

How does this treatment get administered?
  • Upon being tested positive for Hepatitis C, infected individuals can receive treatment as recommended by a “Gastroenterology and Hepatology” specialist.
  • Treatment is oral intake of tablets, once daily.
  • Duration of treatment can range from 3 – 6 months, depending on condition of liver.
Who are the Key Opinion Leaders involved in the clinical research of Ravidasvir?

  • Dr. Tan Seok Siam (National Principal Investigator of STORM- C-1 of Ravidasvir + Sofosbuvir Clinical Trials), Hospital Selayang
  • Datuk Dr. Muhamad Radzi Abu Hassan, Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah
  • Dr. Rosaida Mohd Said, Hospital Ampang
  • Dato Dr. Mahiran Mustafa, Hospital Raja Zainab II
  • Dr. Haniza Omar, Hospital Selayang
  • Dr Suresh Kumar, Hospital Sungai Buloh
  • Dr. Tee Hoi Poh, KPJ Pahang Specialist
  • Dr. Chan Wah Kheong, University Malaysia Medical Centre
How do I find out more about Hepatitis C and Ravidasvir treatment?

Source: Pharmaniaga

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