In June, China registered 21 429 new cases of hepatitis C and 14 disease-related deaths, according to new data published by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Throughout 2018, there were 219,375 new cases in the country – 43% more than in 2010.
China now has the highest hepatitis C burden in the world – approximately 8.9 million people, or 0.6 % of total population – According to a WHO study published in March. Many will die: China accounts for more than half of the world's annual cases of liver cancer caused by hepatitis C, according to a study.
The disease is usually spread by shared needles. Consumption of crystalline methamphetamine, which has snowballed in China in recent years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and can be administered by injection or inhalation, has contributed to the increasing number of new infections according to WHO
in Yi Prefecture, a mountainous region in the province Sichuan's major drug trafficking population, with a high proportion of drug users, nearly five times the national average ̵1; 2.8% of the population, has hepatitis C, according to a 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal.
Another contribution to the epidemic in China is "non-sterile medical injections, which are often administered for unnecessary reasons," say the authors of the WHO report. In May this year, 69 dialysis patients were infected in the eastern part of China's Jiangsu province, mostly by unclean equipment and hands of hospital workers, China Central Television reported in May.
To exacerbate the problem, patients with hepatitis C in China do not receive the care they need. In 2018, only 3.5% of infected people in the country were treated, according to the Polaris Observatory, a US nonprofit initiative.
And while the most advanced antiviral treatments for the disease can cure 90% of cases, many patients simply cannot afford medication, especially in rural areas. Three new hepatitis C drugs were approved by the China Food and Drug Administration in 2017, but they are not covered by China's primary health insurance, which means patients have to pay for them out of pocket, according to the buying drugs in Beijing, a government-owned drug list purchased from government hospitals.
A 12-week Sofosbuvir course, one of the treatments not covered by primary insurance, costs 69,600 yuan ($ 9700 USD).