Indonesia's NGOs want cheap drugs for AIDS

INDONESIA - A group of 14 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has signed an online petition urging a drug manufacturer to offer Hepatitis C drugs at lower prices.

The petition launched via public campaign platform change.org urges Roche Indonesia to immediately lower prices of Hepatitis C drugs, the patent of which belongs to its parent Swiss multinational pharmaceuticals company.

Indonesia has an estimated 7 million people suffering from Hepatitis C, although the actual figure is likely higher due to low awareness of the need to have a Hepatitis C test. The high cost of the test aggravates the problem.

For people living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C infection has become a particular source of concern because coinfection of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) exacerbates their condition and can lead to death.

The campaign's public campaigner, Ayu Oktariani, said many people with Aids (PWAs) managed to survive and were still healthy because the government provided HIV-infected people with antiretroviral drugs for free.

"But PWAs coinfected with Hepatitis C makes their life expectancy lower because in Indonesia, Hepatitis C medication is costly," said Ayu.

Currently, Hepatitis C medication costs around Rp 25 million (S$3,000) per month, with medication costing more than Rp 250 million per patient.