Increased access to viral hepatitis diagnostics and medicines could save up to 100,000 lives a year in the Americas – PAHO/WHO

The cost of hepatitis B and C treatment has dropped dramatically over the past 10 years, making hepatitis drugs an affordable way to control the disease and prevent death.

WASHINGTON, DC, July 27, 2023 (PAHO) — On the eve of World Hepatitis Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging countries to rapidly scale up diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B and C to meet their goal of eliminating the disease by 2030 This year, the region will achieve this goal.

Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that can lead to serious illness and death, affects more than 10 million people in the Americas. Although hepatitis can become chronic, it can be effectively controlled with medication if detected early.

However, only 18% of people with hepatitis B and 22% of people with hepatitis C in the Americas knew they had the disease. Of these, only 3% of hepatitis B patients and 18% of hepatitis C patients received treatment. This is largely due to a continued lack of investment in hepatitis diagnostics and drugs that, in the case of hepatitis C, can cure the disease in as little as 12 weeks.

While immunization programs have enabled the Americas to substantially reduce mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, “more than 100,000 people die each year from liver cancer or cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B and C,” he said. Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, director of Pan American Health organize. “These deaths could be prevented if we increased the availability of testing and treatment services.”

“One of the major barriers to treating chronic viral hepatitis is the perception that the necessary medicines are too expensive for countries,” said Dr Leandro Sereno, Regional Adviser for Hepatitis Prevention and Control at the Pan American Health Organization. “However, due to the availability of generic medicines in the has increased, and the cost of treating hepatitis has decreased substantially over the past decade.”

Countries in the region can also purchase medicines to treat hepatitis through the PAHO Regional Revolving Fund, a technical cooperation mechanism for the joint procurement of medicines, diagnostics, vaccines and life-saving medical devices. Proprietary products to treat hepatitis C, as well as affordable generic products, are now available through the Fund at less than half their original cost, giving countries the opportunity to scale up treatment on a massive scale.

World Hepatitis Day is celebrated annually on 28 July as an opportunity to reflect on progress and achievements in the fight against hepatitis, and to fill the gaps in eliminating this disease as a public health problem.

This year’s theme, “One Life, One Liver,” sheds light on the silent role the liver plays in more than 500 vital functions that keep us alive. That’s why it’s so important to prioritize liver health and understand our hepatitis health.

Hepatitis by the Numbers

  • In the United States, 5.4 million people have hepatitis B and 4.8 million people have hepatitis C. Only 18 percent of people with hepatitis B and 22 percent of people with hepatitis C knew they had the disease.
  • 3% of patients with hepatitis B and 18% of patients with hepatitis C were treated.
  • Approximately 100,000 people die each year in the Americas from hepatitis-related causes due to lack of access to diagnosis and treatment.
  • The price of hepatitis C treatment has dropped to US$ 80 to US$ 150 for a 12-week treatment cycle for countries that have signed the agreement, thanks to the introduction of generic drugs provided through the PAHO regional revolving fund.
  • Vaccination against hepatitis B is now included in the programs of all countries and territories in the Americas.
  • Over the past 5 years, more than 31 million doses of hepatitis B vaccine have been purchased by 38 countries in the region through the Pan American Health Organization’s Regional Revolving Fund. Similarly, more than 3.8 million diagnostic tests and some 25,000 treatments for hepatitis B were purchased by 16 countries in the region. hepatitis.

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