India rolls out new low-cost vaccine for hepatitis B

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A new low-cost hepatitis B vaccine has been launched in India in an effort to reduce the number of cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the country.

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India-based Cipla Ltd introduced the new vaccine in partnership with Serum Institute of India Private Ltd (SII). Cipla will market the vaccine for adults, while SII will market it for both adults and children.

Hepatitis B is a serious problem in India, with an estimated 40 million people chronically infected with the disease. About 70 of chronic hepatitis cases and 80 percent of liver cirrhosis cases are attributed to the infection, according to Cipla.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood and body fluids.

Since 2002, hepatitis B has been included in India’s Universal Immunization Program. Cipla said that the new vaccine would be available at lower cost than existing vaccines, and is 95 percent effective in preventing infection.

“This agreement will enable Cipla to provide affordable vaccines for a chronic disease like hepatitis B. Cipla’s strong marketing network and reach will ensure maximum accessibility of the vaccines in India,” said Dr. Umang Vohra, Global CEO of Cipla Ltd.

India’s program with Cipla is similar to the arrangement between the Hepatology Society of the Philippines and Roche Pharmaceuticals, which provides hepatitis vaccine and treatment medicines at up to 50 percent lower cost to low-income patients.

According to Department of Health (DOH) data, it is estimated that more than 7.7 million people in the Philippines are chronically infected with hepatitis B, of whom between 1.1 and 1.9 million are expected to die prematurely of cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B vaccine is given in three doses, one 30 days after the first dose, and one six months after the first dose. The vaccination is considered effective for decades if properly given.

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