The global hepatitis community unites to demand access to life-saving hepatitis treatment

2 Nov 2015 Bridie Taylor

London, 2 November 2015: Today the World Hepatitis Alliance launches an open letter calling for immediate action to vastly improve access to life-saving drugs for viral hepatitis. Signed by over 120 organisations from 55 countries, the letter highlights that more people die each year from hepatitis B and C than from HIV/AIDS, TB or malaria and that “the single most important reason for this is that they do not have access to life-saving drugs for hepatitis B and hepatitis C“.

The open letter has been signed on behalf of the 400 million people worldwide living with hepatitis B and C and makes specific requests to governments and pharmaceutical companies. In particular the letter calls on national governments to take all necessary steps to:

  • Remove stigma that prevents people coming forward for testing
  • Put in place adequate infrastructure and reduce the price of diagnostics so that they can screen at-risk populations
  • Remove barriers and speed up the process of national registration of hepatitis drugs
  • Reduce the price of the best hepatitis drugs to be able to massively scale up national treatment programmes

The letter also urges pharmaceutical companies to:

  • Ensure their drugs are affordable in all countries, including making the Intellectual Property of the best drugs available to the Medicines Patent Pool
  • Stop anti-diversion policies or using a dominant market position which prevent people accessing the best treatment available

Signatures were collected from delegates during the inaugural World Hepatitis Summit, a joint World Health Organization and World Hepatitis Alliance event that took place 2-4 September 2015 in Glasgow, UK. Raquel Peck, Chief Executive Officer of the World Hepatitis Alliance, said “Now that life-saving treatments are available, governments and pharmaceutical companies must commit to more vigorous efforts to vastly improve access across the world. The letter has brought together and been signed by patient advocates, public health specialists, activists and even representatives from governments and the World Health Organization. It sends a clear message that the global hepatitis community has had enough of the barriers that prevent millions of people accessing treatment and it is time to act to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.”

The letter has been sent to all pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies working in the field of hepatitis and the World Hepatitis Alliance will encourage its 220 member organisations to use the letter to lobby their national governments.

Last week the World Health Organization stressed the need for greater access to life-saving drugs at a joint WHO/WIPO/WTO technical symposium on public health, intellectual property and TRIPS. In her opening remarks WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said “Innovations that result in better medicines, vaccines, and other medical products represent great potential benefits for health. But to realize these benefits, we must ensure access for those in greatest need.”

Download the access to treatment open letter here.

Notes to editors

About Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B and C viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure, and liver cancer.

Viral hepatitis kills more than 1.4 million people every year.

About The World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance is an international umbrella organisation composed of over 220 member organisations representing every region of the world. Working on policy change, capacity building, access and awareness, the organisation’s ultimate goal is to eliminate viral hepatitis from the planet.

About The World Hepatitis Summit

The Summit is a joint World Health Organization and World Hepatitis Alliance event that directly addresses the overwhelming global burden of viral hepatitis. The inaugural 2015 Summit took place 2-4 September 2015 in Glasgow, UK, hosted by the Scottish Government and supported by Glasgow Caledonian University and Health Protection Scotland.