On November 10, AA&D Executive Director Tom Nicholson visited the cities of Moscow and Vladimir in the Russian Federation as part of AA&D’s work to understand and address barriers to care for people with Hepatitis C (HCV).
In fall of this year, AA&D received funding to support a scoping project to understand the epidemiology of HCV in the Russian Federation and develop an actionable plan to address barriers to treatment for this disease. A core component of this work is to identify potential future paths for importation and delivery of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), which are life-saving drugs that can cure what was once a chronic disease.
Nicholson visited Vladimir, a city of about half a million outside of Moscow, to meet with doctors, patients and former patients, policymakers, and leadership from local NGOs. The goal of this visit was to understand the scope of the HCV epidemic in Russia, as well as the challenges and opportunities related to logistical and financial barriers to patients benefiting from these new drugs.
An estimated 6 million people in Russia suffer from HCV, and the disease coincides with social and medical co-morbidities that can challenge access to effective care. Less than 2% of people receive care. And if treatment is received through the public sector, it is typically with older, less effective medicines. The reasons for limited access to treatment are complex, but include a limited selection of treatments that are registered in-country, as well as stigma related to social factors (e.g. drug use). The cost of treatment for HCV in Russia and in much of the rest of the world is often prohibitively expensive, forcing people to resort to other treatment options with questionable efficacy and safety. Compared to only a few years ago, the advent of DAAs has opened the opportunity to reverse the epidemic of HCV if comprehensive, cost-effective methods for care delivery can be identified and implemented.
Nicholson’s visit was focused on addressing barriers to effective treatment, with the goal of securing funding for ambitious projects that deliver high-quality care for patients. This work is an important step towards developing solutions for this pressing global health challenge in the near future.