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Governments need to “get a grip” on hepatitis C

Janssen-backed report says more needs to be done to tackle the “silent pandemic”

The Silent Pandemic: Tackling Hepatitis C with Policy Innovation

More action needs to be taken to prevent and treat the infectious condition hepatitis C or else the world will face growing social and economic problems, according to a new report.

The Silent Pandemic: Tackling Hepatitis C with Policy Innovation, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and funded by pharma firm Janssen, says countries need to develop strategies that take a comprehensive approach to hepatitis C care to improve the current situation, which sees as few as 10 per cent of people with the condition currently receiving treatment.

“The report highlights that worldwide, despite the significant burden of HCV, governments have failed to get a grip on the scale and impact of the disease,” said Charles Gore, president of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

“In both developed and developing countries, the true human and economic cost of HCV will continue to rise unless policy makers confront this urgent public health issue now.”

One of the main areas of concern highlighted by the study's findings was the lack of knowledge about hepatitis C incidence.

According the report, few countries are able to provide data on the number of people with the disease. In the EU 16 countries were found to have either poor or non-existent data on hepatitis B and C, with only the Netherlands judged to be collecting good data.

In other regions, China, Australia and India were mentioned as countries with reasonable data, but the picture was worse in other parts of Asia, as well as Latin America and Africa.

Increased public awareness of hepatitis C was also mentioned as an area to improve, with the reporting citing a survey by the European Liver Patients Association found that only 20 per cent of those diagnosed had heard of hepatitis B or C before being told they had it

Raising awareness could also help combat the stigma surrounding the disease due to its prevalence among people who inject drugs (since 1996, 90 per cent of new cases of hepatitis C in England were people in this group).

Achim Kautz, manager of German patient support group Deutsche Leberhilfe (German Liver Aid Association), said:”If you have a liver disease, the general public thinks you are guilty. You did not take care in your past.”

Related to this is a need to provide increased support for people who use injectable drugs who have hepatitis as they are less likely to seek treatment or testing.

In addition, prevention measures to reduce high-risk behaviour and improved education on healthy lifestyle choices for those already infected should also be considered to be part of government healthcare policy.

Gaston Picchio, global hepatitis disease area leader at Janssen – the company that funded the report and launched its hepatitis C drug Incivo (telaprevir) last year, commented on the need to do more.

“The report highlights that each country has different needs and resources; however, we urge all those involved in the management of hepatitis C virus and public health to help increase awareness of the disease and look at the most effective ways of delivering effective treatment to those most in need,” he said.

17th January 2013

From: Healthcare

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