It’s a message you’ve probably heard before, but that doesn’t make it less true or important: Hepatitis C is now a treatable disease, yet not enough is being done to achieve the goal of eliminating this public health threat. Direct-acting antivirals are available to cure as many as 95% of hepatitis C infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) set a goal to eliminate viral hepatitis (meaning hepatitis A, B, and C) as a major public health threat by 2030. Currently, viral hepatitis results in approximately 1.4 million deaths each year – which is about the same as deaths due to tuberculosis, and this is a greater number than HIV or malaria. A recent meeting to assess progress towards the goal of eliminating hepatitis finds that only a handful of countries are on target to reach this goal, and the United States is not one of these countries.
There are some positive indications, such as new WHO data showing that hepatitis C treatments in one recent year increased from 1.1 million treated patients to 1.76 million patients. However, a major sticking point remains getting patients into the system. Only 20% of people who currently have hepatitis C have been diagnosed, meaning that the majority do not know their infection status. Diagnosis must come before treatment.
In the U.S., the opioid crisis is fueling rising infection rates and the percentage of infected prisoners (where prison budgets can’t cover the medication cost) add to the problem. Furthermore, new infections are on the rise in children (due to mother-to-child transmission), yet medications are not recommended for pregnant women or children younger than 12 years.
In addition, the high price tag for direct-acting antivirals continues to be another barrier for some patients. For this barrier, BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy’s financial services department can provide assistance in connecting patients to funding sources. Let’s see if we can, together, help reach the 2030 WHO goal of eliminating hepatitis.
Eliminating viral hepatitis: time to match visions with action. Lancet November 11, 2017 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32856-8