July 10, 2013

Around 10m suffering from hepatitis in Pakistan: experts

Obaid Abrar Khan
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
From Print Edition

Rawalpindi: A table talk on ‘Importance of hepatitis awareness, prevention and treatment’ was organised by the Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Memorial Society (MKRMS) with the collaboration of Roche Pharma here on Monday.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar was the chief guest on the occasion. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Health Shoukat Ali Yousafzai attended the talk as guest of honour. Professor of Medicine at Rawalpindi Medical College Professor Dr. Shoaib Shafi and Professor Dr. Muzzaffar Lateef Gill attended the event as keynote speakers. Senior Editor and Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Memorial Society Chairman Wasif Nagi was the host.

The participants of the talk said that around 10 million citizens of Pakistan were suffering from hepatitis. A large number of residents of Hafizabad and Mandi Bahauddin were suffering from this silent killer.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar, in her address, said that the federal government has been working on the National Health Policy. She said that a meeting would be called in this regard by the end of this month. “We have constituted a task force on national level to make the National Health Policy,” she added.

She said that after taking charge she found corruption and mismanagement in all departments. She said that the list of corrupt and non-professional officials has been sent to Prime Minister’s Office. “I am searching for eligible candidates for key posts to make the health department active and effective,” she added.

Talking about hepatitis, Saira Afzal Tarar said that there was a need to spread awareness among the public about preventive measures and to fight against this silent killer. She said that it was the responsibility of qualified doctors to come forward and give suggestions to the government and fight against hepatitis.

Shoukat Ali Yousafzai said that around 480,000 patients were suffering from Hepatitis-B and around 1,680,000 were suffering from Hepatitis-C in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “A survey has found that most patients of hepatitis are from Peshawar,” he added.

He said that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has been giving special attention to health and they have distributed equipment in all districts for free testing of hepatitis. He said that there was a need to create awareness among the public and to tell them to keep the environment clean and protect themselves from this silent killer.

Dr. Shoaib Shafi said: “We are fighting against terrorism. We have to fight against hepatitis which is more dangerous.” He said that around 10 million citizens of Pakistan were suffering from hepatitis. Most of the hepatitis patients were from Hafizabad and Mandi Bahauddin. As many as 8.3% of patients were from Rawalpindi Division and 13.5% of women were suffering from this disease, which was alarming situation for the government. “Around 1,100 patients are under treatment at the Liver Centre of Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Rawalpindi,” he added.

Talking about problems in treatment, Dr. Shoaib Shafi said that there was no facility for hepatitis test in government hospitals, whereas in private laboratories this test was expensive and out of the reach of poor people. The government should make arrangements to give this facility in government hospitals free of cost and it also set up liver transplant centres in public hospitals.

About the symptoms of hepatitis, Dr. Shoaib Shafi said that most patients were diagnosed at the last stage of the disease because of lack of awareness. “This disease spreads due to filthy water, used syringes and infected blood transfusion,” he said.

Professor Dr. Muzaffar Lateef Gill (Sitara-i-Imtiaz) said: “Unfortunately, we are not giving quality treatment to patients of hepatitis in government hospitals. We have made two standards of treatment — one is for the poor, which is not quality treatment, and the other one is for wealthy people, which is very effective.”

He said that although government was providing free treatment of hepatitis in government hospitals but the efficacy of injections used was not so good. “These injections treat only 60% of patients and 25% patients get the virus back.” “The government should give quality treatment at low cost,” he said and added that doctors should also play their role and think before giving medicines to the patients of hepatitis.

Dr. Muzaffar Lateef Gill said that different pharmaceutical companies were also taking advantage and marketing low quality injections from different countries. The government should take notice of such medicines, which are banned all over the world but still available in Pakistan, he concluded.

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