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ABPI says children should be protected against hepatitis

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has published a new report which says that children should be vaccinated against hepatitis to prevent the spread of drug-resistant strains of the disease
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has published a new report which says that children should be vaccinated against hepatitis to prevent the spread of drug-resistant strains of the disease.

Strains of hepatitis B are becoming more resistant to treatment, according to the report, Target Hepatitis, which states that widespread use of vaccines can prevent the disease. There is currently no mass vaccination programme in existence in the UK.

Dr Richard Tiner, ABPI medical director, explained that this is a public health matter and much of the rest of Europe operates mass childhood vaccination programmes. He said that it is time for the UK to 'follow suit'.

"A programme needs to be put in place to ensure that all British children are inoculated against hepatitis B," he said. "Hepatitis B is becoming increasingly resistant to antiviral medicines. Once a patient is infected, the disease is difficult to control. We need to focus on the importance of prevention."

The ABPI report states that hepatitis B - which is transmitted through bodily fluids - will rapidly develop resistance to treatment as mutant forms of the disease emerge. In 20 per cent of recorded cases, patients with the condition will find the disease has mutated within the first year and will no longer respond to medicines. In the first five years the number of people who become immune to treatment rises to 70 per cent.

According to the ABPI, the UK-based pharma industry is currently developing innovative new medicines aimed at countering the growing problem of drug-resistant strains of hepatitis B.

Tiner said that new medicines "will improve the lives of the thousands of patients who are diagnosed with the disease each year".

Target Hepatitis examines all forms of hepatitis - A, B and C - and was produced in association with the British Liver Trust, Hepatitis C Trust and Hepatitis B Foundation UK. The full report can be read at www.abpi.or.uk

2nd July 2008

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