Islamabad - Around 12 million people in the country are suffering from hepatitis and a national strategic framework is required to control the spread of disease, said the federal minister for health on Saturday.

The Federal Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar addressed the World Hepatitis Summit in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo.

As per a statement issued here, the minister said that Pakistan has about 12 million people suffering from hepatitis B or C, considering one of the highest burdens of disease with regard to in the Eastern Mediterranean Region Organization (EMRO).

She added, “It is with this objective that our ministry in partnership with the provinces launched Pakistan National Hepatitis Strategy Framework to eliminate the disease by the year 2030.”

She said the region comprises 22 countries; there was a need to have in place a consensus National Strategic framework to control the spread of the disease.

“First step is to enhance hepatitis B vaccination in all ages including the birth dose and then to ensure safe blood transfusion,” she said.

The Minister said that ensuring strict adherence to infection control practices in the healthcare facilities and encouraging people to get tested and treat are the steps followed then.

She said ministry of National Health Services (NHS) constituted Technical Advisory Group on hepatitis was constituted to achieve disease control.

On the advice of Technical Advisory Group, the government introduced the new oral hepatitis drugs in the country and negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies to bring the cost down.

“Globally Pakistan has the cheapest hepatitis drugs available,” she said.

Technical Advisory Group also developed new hepatitis C treatment guidelines, which have been handed over to the Provinces for use.

The Minister said Pakistan Health Research Council developed the National Hepatitis Strategic Framework for the next 5 years.

“This is a landmark as Pakistan is the first country in the WHO EMRO region to develop such a strategic framework,” she said.  World Hepatitis Summit being held in Sao Paolo Brazil from 3rd to 5th November has been organized by World Health Organization and brings together endemic countries, donors, experts and researchers to deliberate and agree on the way forward to achieve the goal of Hepatitis elimination by 2030.