Global Impact of Hepatitis

On a global level, viral hepatitis ranks in impact and seriousness as highly as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Yet, viral hepatitis receives less funding and attention from global health policy makers and donors than each of those other three diseases. It’s a surprising disconnect. For example, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set a goal to “end the epidemics” of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria by the year 2030. Yet, hepatitis was under the category of diseases to “combat.” Viral hepatitis is responsible for more deaths annually than the other diseases listed.

The fact that viral hepatitis encompasses five different viruses (hepatitis A-E) could underlie why viral hepatitis is viewed differently. Estimates of the global burden of disease has found that viral hepatitis (in a review of data from 1990 to 2013) accounted for 1.45 million deaths in 2013. This makes it the seventh leading cause of death worldwide.

Viral hepatitis also comes with a health burden for those living with the chronic forms of this infection, which includes 400 million people with chronic hepatitis B and C. Most of this burden occurs in high-income and upper-middle-income countries. Counteracting viral hepatitis requires an effective health campaign focusing on both preventing new infections, as well as testing and treatment for existing infections.

At the time in which the seriousness of viral hepatitis as a global health challenge is being recognized, it’s hopeful to have new antiviral treatments for hepatitis C available. A review of 138 trials of hepatitis C direct-acting antivirals confirms their benefit, with up to 99% of patients achieving long-term cure from this infection. This translates to reductions in liver cancer and overall improved quality of life.

BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy continues to raise awareness about the importance of testing for hepatitis C, while removing barriers to those with hepatitis C to receive treatment. Year by year, the global burden of viral hepatitis (and hepatitis C) is lessening – and we’ll stay here working on this challenge.

Sources

Doyle JS, Thompson AJ, Higgs P, et al. New hepatitis C antiviral treatments eliminate virus. Lancet 2017;390:358-9.

Locarnini S, Chen D-S, Shibuya K. No more excuses: viral hepatitis can be eliminated. Lancet 2016;387:1703-4.

Stanaway JD, Flaxman AD, Naghavi M, et al. The global burden of viral hepatitis from 1990 to 2013: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 2016;388:1081-8.

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