A Program to Treat Hepatitis B in North Korea: A Model of Antiviral Therapy in a Resource-poor Setting

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Despite the well-proven, safe and effective therapies for hepatitis B infection, delivery of treatment remains a significant challenge in resource-poor settings. Geopolitical and economic restrictions present additional difficulties in providing care in North Korea. However, treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis B remains a top priority for both the North Korean Ministry of Public Health and international agencies working in North Korean hepatitis healthcare facilities. Working in partnership, a path was created to institute this much-needed program. A consortium of United States and Australian humanitarian non-governmental organizations along with generous individual and corporate donors working in concert with local and national health authorities have succeeded in establishing the first hepatitis B treatment program in North Korea. The essential elements of this program include renovation of existing hepatitis hospitals, access to antiviral medications, establishment of laboratory facilities, creation of medical documentation and record-keeping, training of local health care professionals, and quarterly visits by international volunteer physicians and laboratory experts. Management and treatment decisions are made bilaterally. To date, nearly 1,500 patients have been evaluated, and over 800 have been started on long-term antiviral therapy. It is envisioned that this program will eventually be managed and funded by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Ministry of Public Health. This program's success demonstrates a potential model for delivery of antiviral therapy for patients suffering from hepatitis B in other developing countries.

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Gut and Liver





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Medical Laboratory Sciences

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