We Must Not Let Pandemic Divert Our Attention Away From Hepatitis & Other Communicable Illnesses: Rakesh Bamzai
In an exclusive interaction with BW Healthcareworld, Rakesh Bamzai, President India, Emerging Asia & Access Markets at Viatris, spoke about Hepatitis, it's impact on India and the way forward to deal with it.
How is Hepatitis affecting India?
About 325 million people worldwide live with a hepatitis infection, with the two most common forms being hepatitis B and C. Approximately 1.3 million people die each year from complications of untreated hepatitis. The burden of Hepatitis in India is huge as approximately 40 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and 6-12 million people with Hepatitis C, accounting for 10-11 per cent of global burden of hepatitis.
Currently in India, the impact of COVID-19 has led people living with Hepatitis to delayed diagnoses and interruptions in treatment and care. However, we must not let the pandemic divert our attention away from hepatitis and other avoidable communicable illnesses that require immediate care after we have worked tirelessly to combat the disease at every turn and made a difference in the lives of many people impacted by it.
Since most of the people with Hepatitis infection remain undiagnosed and unaware of their situation, how is Viatris raising awareness on hepatitis prevention and diagnosis in the country
At Viatris, we have worked tirelessly to ensure a stable supply of medicine to ensure that no patient, no matter where they are in the world, is left behind. In 2020, approximately 400,000 patients were treated around the world using our hepatitis C therapy. In India, we extend comprehensive care to hepatitis patients through large number of screening, counselling and diagnosis support.
We have developed an R&D program and a vast manufacturing and distribution network that also can be leveraged for other products for hepatitis and its diagnosis. We are committed to leveraging our existing infrastructure and identifying new medicines, products and partnerships that not only allows us to accelerate access to lifesaving products where they are needed most.
What is Viatris’ commitment to reduce the burden of Hepatitis?
As a global leader in developing quality-assured generic treatments for hepatitis C, Viatris is uniquely positioned as a source of stability in a world of evolving healthcare needs. Viatris is the only generic company in the world to have WHO generic prequalification for the combination products - Sofosbuvir/Velpatasvir and Sofosbuvir/Daclatasvir and the only company (generic or originator) to have WHO PQ for both.
As a commitment to create continuous awareness, confirm and cure towards hepatitis management, this World Hepatitis Day (28th July 2021) we introduced a patient support platform - HepBeat. The platform educates and addresses frequently asked questions pertaining to Hepatitis B & C in prominent regional languages of India.
Also, our partnerships between healthcare leaders from various fields, ranging from local healthcare leaders to pharmaceutical companies, have spread these treatments around the world with dramatic efficacy, but there is still a long way to go in terms of reaching potential patients and meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal to combat hepatitis set for 2030.
Further, we are working in our licensed markets to develop cutting-edge therapies and to engage with local health officials to provide access to vulnerable people. Hence, by working tirelessly to combat this disease all around the world, we hope to prevent as many of the 4.5 million premature deaths from hepatitis that the WHO forecasts will occur in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through our facilitating access and collaborations.
Partnerships play a key role in addressing the growing burden of infectious diseases like Hepatitis/HIV. What is Viatris as a global healthcare company doing?
At Viatris, we are committed to leveraging our existing infrastructure and identifying new medicines, products and partnerships that allows us to accelerate access to lifesaving products where they are needed most.
In India, Viatris is preferred partner for National Viral Hepatitis Control Program, supplying medicine to over 150,000 patients across 11 states. Our collaboration with Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) for the ‘Healthy Liver, Healthy Delhi’ project helps to raise awareness about liver health and simplify hepatitis B and C screening. So far, over 16,000 individuals have been tested for free through the program's mobile clinics. Viatris and ILBS are striving to expand the number of mobile clinics to reach more patients, based on the initiative's success.
There truly is no greater example of our commitment to broad and sustainable patient access than the scale we’ve built within our antiretroviral platform. Investing to become the world’s largest producer, by volume, of ARVs has allowed us to reduce costs while also innovating solutions through R&D.
Globally, Viatris is working together with organisations like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CHAI, UNITAID and others to ensure affordability of ARVs for patients living with HIV in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Similarly, our collaboration with TB Alliance and the Global Drug Facility (GDF), as part of the StopTB Partnership, is a reflection of our shared commitment to ensure affordable and sustainable access to new TB treatments from multiple sources.
Viatris became a preferred partner for India’s National Viral Hepatitis Control Program. How has this impacted Hepatitis care?
Viatris has a strong history of partnering with government of India in making lifesaving medicines available to patients who need it the most. Through our partnership, we have been able to support India’s National Viral Hepatitis Control Program and supplied medicine for more than 150,000 patients in more than 11 Indian states.
Can you throw some light on Viatris’ vision to empower people worldwide to live healthier at every stage of life?
Viatris empowers people worldwide to live healthier at every stage of life. Our aim is to enhance patient health by providing access to medicines, advancing sustainable operations, developing new solutions, and using our combined knowledge. Leveraging our collective expertise to connect people to products and services and advancing sustainable operations and innovative solutions to improve patient health enable us to provide patients high quality, trusted medicines, regardless of geography or circumstance.