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First-ever World Hepatitis Summit calls for national programmes

Follows rise in hepatitis deaths for fifth consecutive year
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The first World Hepatitis Summit is being held this week in Glasgow to urge countries to develop national programmes to help eliminate viral hepatitis.

Deaths from the disease have increased for a fifth year running and there are currently 400 million people living with the condition as it now claims an estimated 1.45 million lives each year, making it one of the world's leading causes of death.

Policymakers and stakeholders at the three-day meeting will discuss the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which sets targets for 2030.

The targets include a 90% reduction in new cases of hep B and C, as well as 65% reduction in deaths and treatment of 80% of eligible people with hep B and C infections.

Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO's Global Hepatitis Programme, said: “We know how to prevent viral hepatitis, we have a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis B, and we now have medicines that can cure people with hepatitis C and control hepatitis B infection.

“Yet access to diagnosis and treatment is still lacking or inaccessible in many parts of the world. This summit is a wake-up call to build a momentum to prevent, diagnose, treat - and eventually eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health concern.”

Hep B and C account for approximately 80% of all liver cancer deaths, however most people living with the condition are unaware they have contracted the infection.

Just two years ago, treatments for hep C presented minimal benefits, however five new medications - direct acting oral antivirals - have recently become available, turning the condition into a curable one.

Drugs such as AbbVie's Exviera (dasabuvir), Johnson & Johnson's Olysio (simprevir), Gilead's Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Daklinza (daclatasvir) have essentially revolutionised treatment, but the latter two also come with some of the industry's highest price tags.

Earlier this year WHO added various new hep C drugs to its latest edition of the Model List of Essential Medicines, but also urged pharma companies to lower their prices. 

Article by
Nikhil Patel

4th September 2015

From: Regulatory

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