National strategy needed to eliminate hepatitis C, MPs and peers say

A report from the All-Party Parliamentry Group on Liver Health has called for more to be done to eliminate hepatitis C.

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NHS England has no hope of meeting its target to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025 unless the government develops a national strategy to wipe out the curable and preventable virus, according to the results of an inquiry by a parliamentary group of MPs and peers.

Lack of awareness about the disease, low testing levels, short-term funding for treatment, and overly-complex care pathways are some of the barriers preventing the target from being achieved in England. The national target is five years ahead of the global one set by the members of the World Health Assembly in May 2016, the inquiry report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Liver Health said.

“The lack of national co-ordination holds England back from bold international leadership on this critical public health issue,” the report published on 20 March 2018 stated.

“With the exceptional context of a deadly virus now being fully curable with easily deliverable, highly cost-effective medicines, there is no excuse for not delivering universal access to treatment. In the coming years, finding those still undiagnosed and living with hepatitis C should be a national ambition. It is our hope and belief that in the very near future, hepatitis C will truly be a relic of the past.”

Among the recommendations are the need to increase hepatitis C testing in non-traditional settings, funding to allow more testing in primary care, and an awareness campaign about the disease targeting primary care workers.

Needle and syringe programmes — including those run by pharmacy — offer an opportunity to help prevent the spread of the disease, the report said. Pharmacies are also well-placed alongside other nonconventional settings, such as homeless hostels and sexual health clinics, to train staff to treat hepatitis C patients in the community.

The report said: “It was the view of every witness to the inquiry that delivery of testing in additional community settings outside of primary care or drug services — like pharmacies, hostels, day centres, police custody, mosques and street outreach — would be crucial to ensuring all those living with hepatitis C are tested and treated.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, National strategy needed to eliminate hepatitis C, MPs and peers say;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204590

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