PETALING JAYA: With some estimated 3.5% of the adult population suffering from Hepatitis C, the Ministry of Health has embarked on clinical studies to seek new treatment regiments to help victims of the disease. To get the ball rolling, the Ministry's Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to launch Clinical Studies for a Public Health Approach to Hepatitis C in Malaysia. In disclosing this, Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said DNDi and MOH have agreed to work together within the framework of the future National Strategic Plan on viral hepatitis. "The immediate goal is to conduct clinical studies of promising new treatment regimens for Hepatitis C," he said, adding that this will be followed by scale-up of treatment for patients, with the overall objective to ensure equitable access to affordable and effective treatments for patients suffering from this disease in Malaysia. He said the clinical studies will be launched later this year in multiple sites, with DNDi and CRM, a non-profit company owned by MOH, as the co-sponsors. "If the clinical studies are successful, the data and information from these studies will provide MOH with critical evidence of the feasibility of using recently-approved drugs and clinical-stage compounds for Hepatitis C. This will enable MOH to take informed and appropriate policy and economic decisions on adopting these regimens as a public health tool in Malaysia," he added. Hepatitis C virus infection in Malaysia is a clinical and social burden to the Government of Malaysia. Dr Noor Hisham said a scale-up of treatment is necessary in order to have an impact on the number of cases, which are steadily increasing. As of 2009, he said, there were 453,700 people living with Hepatitis C infection in Malaysia, including 2.5 % of the adult population 15-64 years old. He added that by some estimates the disease burden is as high as 3.5%. The Hepatitis C project in Malaysia is an integral part of DNDi's global access plan for Hepatitis C, which will include clinical studies in Thailand, to prove the feasibility of making these new combination treatment regimens available to broad patient populations at an affordable price.