Globally, 95% of people living with a cancer-causing illness are unaware

28 Jul 2016 Bridie Taylor

On World Hepatitis Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance is calling for a dramatic scale up in viral hepatitis testing to reduce liver cancer deaths worldwide

London, 28 July 2016 – Each year, more than 800,000 people die globally from liver cancer, of which 80% is caused by viral hepatitis.[1] A high majority of these deaths are completely preventable, if people are aware of their infection and have access to the appropriate treatment. 

In total, the hepatitis viruses are the seventh leading cause of mortality, responsible for 1.4 million deaths each year – more than AIDs, TB or malaria.[i] Hepatitis C is responsible for half of this huge number, killing more than 700,000 people every year, mostly as a result of liver disease, cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Lack of awareness, at an individual, community and government level, is cited as one of the main reasons for the perpetuating global burden of viral hepatitis. Less than 5% of people living with viral hepatitis worldwide are aware of their condition[1], largely due to the disease being mostly asymptomatic and the lack of routine screening. The result being for many, a missed opportunity to access the highly effective treatment that can stop them succumbing to liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

“We have the right to know if we are living with a cancer-causing virus” said Raquel Peck, CEO of World Hepatitis Alliance. “On World Hepatitis Day, we are calling on governments to take responsibility by scaling up hepatitis testing services and by providing treatment to reduce needless deaths, since most people were infected through poor infection control in the healthcare system”.

Lack of political priority also plays a key role for why so many are unaware they are living with a deadly virus and not being treated with the life-saving cure. Take the United Kingdom (UK) for example, only half of people living with hepatitis C have been diagnosed[ii], that’s 100,000 currently living with a cancer-causing illness and not aware. Similarly, less than 5% of people are receiving treatment, which has the ability to cure almost all of people living with hepatitis C.[iii]

The NHS in England appears to be dragging its feet in regards to treating those infected, they have capped treatment at 10,011 patients and have shelved a framework intended to join up the public sector’s approach to tackling the virus, despite the fact that the NHS has a smaller scale challenge compared to many of its peers worldwide.

Recent World Health Organization research[iv] found that the UK paid the lowest price of any OECD country for Harvoni, one of the new highly effective hepatitis C treatments. Additionally, the prevalence of hepatitis C in the UK is more than seven times lower than seen globally, and less than half of that found in the United States.

“The UK is thought to have diagnosed half of those living with hepatitis C, ten times more than the 5% diagnosed globally. It’s worrying that despite being in such an enviable position to pursue the UK’s international commitment to eliminate the virus, the NHS in England are embarrassingly dragging their feet over testing, treatment and raising awareness.” said Charles Gore, CEO of The Hepatitis Trust, UK

England’s lack of prioritisation to treat and test people in England not only limits efforts to increase the numbers diagnosed and treated but questions the commitment they made along with rest of the world at the World Health Assembly.

At the World Health Assembly in May, 194 governments adopted the WHO Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy and committed to increase diagnosis to 90% and treatment to 80% by 2030. They also committed to an overarching goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, which will save 7.1 million lives globally.[1]

Lack of priority on national health agendas also plays a key role why so many are both living with deadly virus unaware and not being treated with the life-saving cure. Take the United Kingdom (UK) for example, only half of people living with hepatitis C have been diagnosed[ii], that’s 100,000 currently living with a cancer-causing illness and not being aware. Similarly, less than 5% of people are receiving treatment, which has the ability to cure almost all of people living with hepatitis C.[iii]

The NHS in England appears to be dragging its feet in regards to treating those infected, they have put cap on the numbers being treated and have shelved a framework intended to join up the public sector’s approach to tackling the virus, despite the fact that the NHS has a smaller scale challenge compared to many of its peers worldwide.

Recent World Health Organization research[iv] found that the UK paid the lowest price of any OECD country for Harvoni, one of the new highly effective hepatitis C treatments. Additionally, the prevalence of hepatitis C in the UK is more than seven times lower than seen globally, and less than half of that found in the United States.

“The UK is thought to have diagnosed half of those living with hepatitis C, ten times more than the 5% diagnosed globally. It’s worrying that despite being in such an enviable position to pursue the UK’s international commitment to eliminate the virus, the NHS in England are embarrassingly dragging their feet over testing, treatment and raising awareness.” said Charles Gore, CEO of The Hepatitis Trust, UK

England’s lack of prioritisation to treat and test people in England not only limits efforts to increase the numbers diagnosed and treated but questions the commitment they made along with rest of the world at the World Health Assembly.

At the World Health Assembly in May, 194 governments adopted the WHO Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy and committed to increase diagnosis to 90% and treatment to 80% by 2030. They also committed to an overarching goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, which will save 7.1 million lives globally.[1] 

The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day, ‘Elimination of viral hepatitis’, explores how everyone – together or as individuals – can do their part to eliminate viral hepatitis.

To mark World Hepatitis Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance together with a large number of civil society organisations celebrated the launch of “NOhep”, the global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis. NOhep aims to unite those working in the field of hepatitis and others from across the world around one common purpose: the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030. NOhep is calling on individuals and organisations across the world to sign-up to be part of the next greatest achievement, the elimination of viral hepatitis. Sign up and watch the video here: www.NOhep.org

“Join us today, on World Hepatitis Day, to call on governments to take the first step towards eliminating hepatitis by making hepatitis testing and treatment be as routine as it is for other conditions like HIV, colon cancer or blood pressure. Because only then we will have a world with “NOhep”. said Raquel Peck 

Media contacts

Tara Farrell

Communications Manager

Tara.farrell@worldhepatitisalliance.org

+44(0)776162525

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, and globally kills more than 1.4 million people every year. There are five different hepatitis viruses - hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A is spread mainly through ingestion of contaminated food and water and there are an estimated 1.4 million cases each year. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person and approximately 240 million people are living with chronic infections. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact such as unsafe injection practices and inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment. Hepatitis D is passed on through contact with infected blood and only occurs in people who are already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis E, like hepatitis A, is transmitted through ingesting contaminated food or water. http://worldhepatitisalliance.org/en/viral-hepatitis

About World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day is one of only four official disease-specific world health days recognised by WHO. World Hepatitis Day was launched by the World Hepatitis Alliance in 2008 in response to concern about the lack of priority for hepatitis as a global killer and became an official WHO day in 2010 at the 63rd World Health Assembly.

For World Hepatitis Day 2016 the World Hepatitis Alliance launched NOhep, a global movement aimed at uniting people from across the world to take action, to speak out and be engaged to ensure viral hepatitis is eliminated by 2030. In addition, NOhep provides a platform for the hepatitis community to share resources and materials so that actions can be taken to eliminate viral hepatitis. The fundamental objective of NOhep is to build awareness of viral hepatitis and the crucial role people can play, in their own lives, at more structural levels and in their communities, to help eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

www.NOhep.org

The World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is a patient-led and patient driven non-governmental organisation (NGO). With over 230 member patient groups from 82 countries, WHA provides global leadership to drive action to help eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Their aim is to work with governments, members and other key partners to support and elevate patient voices, to raise the profile of viral hepatitis and to help establish comprehensive hepatitis strategies which have robust prevention measures and access to affordable diagnostics and treatment.

http://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/


[i] Stanaway et al, The global burden of viral hepatitis from 1990 to 2013: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, Lancet, July 2016

[ii] Hepatitis C in the UK 2015 Public Health England

[iii] Centre for Disease Analysis, "A Delphi process (using published literature followed by interviews with local experts) was used to gather data for 59 countries (“Validated”). Literature search was used for the remaining countries (“Estimated”). High quality HCV data were available for 40 countries, bringing the number of validated or estimated models included up to 99. These countries account for 87% of the global population and 88% of viremic infections.  In 2016, there were an estimated 70 million viremic infections, globally, corresponding to a viremic prevalence of  0.95%." available at: http://polarisobservatory.com/polaris/map.htm

[iv] Prices, Costs, and Affordability of New Medicines for Hepatitis C in 30 Countries: An Economic Analysis Swathi Iyengar,  Kiu Tay-Teo, Sabine Vogler, Peter Beyer, Stefan Wiktor, Kees de Joncheere, Suzanne Hill

[ii] Hepatitis C in the UK 2015 Public Health England

[iii] Centre for Disease Analysis, "A Delphi process (using published literature followed by interviews with local experts) was used to gather data for 59 countries (“Validated”). Literature search was used for the remaining countries (“Estimated”). High quality HCV data were available for 40 countries, bringing the number of validated or estimated models included up to 99. These countries account for 87% of the global population and 88% of viremic infections.  In 2016, there were an estimated 70 million viremic infections, globally, corresponding to a viremic prevalence of  0.95%." available at: http://polarisobservatory.com/polaris/map.htm

[iv] Prices, Costs, and Affordability of New Medicines for Hepatitis C in 30 Countries: An Economic Analysis Swathi Iyengar,  Kiu Tay-Teo, Sabine Vogler, Peter Beyer, Stefan Wiktor, Kees de Joncheere, Suzanne Hill