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LCQ18: Haemophilia and thalassaemia patients infected with hepatitis C virus
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pierre Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):


     Some patients suffering from haemophilia and thalassaemia (patients with blood diseases) have relayed to me that they were infected with hepatitis C virus many years ago after receiving blood transfusion or treatment involving blood products at public hospitals because, prior to July 1991, the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service did not screen the collected blood for hepatitis C antibody, resulting in the blood or blood products carrying the virus. They consider that as they are innocent victims of hepatitis infection, the Government and the Hospital Authority are duty-bound to provide them with appropriate treatment for hepatitis. However, the treatment plans for hepatitis provided under the public healthcare system are not uniform, and medications having more side effects and with lower efficacy are prescribed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

(1) the number of attendances of hepatitis C patients with blood diseases receiving hepatitis treatment under the public healthcare system in the past five years and, among such patients, the number of those who were cured of hepatitis; and

(2) the current number of patients with blood diseases receiving hepatitis treatment under the public healthcare system and, among them, the number of those who have been referred to hepatology specialist outpatient clinics for hepatitis treatment (and set out in a table the breakdown by hospital cluster)?



(1) and (2) My consolidated reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Dr Hon Pierre Chan relating to hepatitis C treatment for patients suffering from haemophilia and thalassaemia under the public healthcare system is as follows:

     Being the major service provider in the publicly-funded public healthcare system, the Hospital Authority (HA) places high importance on providing optimal care for all patients and ensuring fair and efficient use of limited public resources so that patients can receive fair and appropriate treatment under the highly subsidised public healthcare system. 

     Hepatitis C patients, including those also suffering from haemophilia and thalassaemia, will be assessed by their attending doctors for devising the most suitable treatment plan. According to the existing treatment plan of the HA, haemophilia or thalassaemia patients who are infected with hepatitis C and have not yet received any assessment before will be referred to the gastroenterology and hepatology department of their respective hospitals or other relevant hospitals within the same cluster for assessment. Doctors will prioritise patients for receiving chronic hepatitis C treatment according to their clinical conditions and the severity of their liver diseases. Patients may consult their doctors for the latest information, recommendations and treatment plan. 

     Regarding the drug treatment of hepatitis C, the HA introduced the new generation direct-acting antiviral drug (DAA) as a special drug in the Drug Formulary in July 2014 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. In 2016-17, three more DAAs were introduced as special drugs for treating the disease. Special drugs are drugs used under specified clinical conditions with specific specialist authorisation. These drugs are provided at standard fees and charges in public hospitals and clinics when prescribed under specific clinical conditions. In 2017-18, the HA will make use of the additional recurrent funding of about $32 million provided by the Government to expand the clinical applications of these special drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C with a view to benefiting more patients.

     The HA does not maintain statistics on the number of haemophilia and thalassaemia patients infected with hepatitis C nor the number of these patients receiving treatment from the HA.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:11
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