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Public health

Latest data on hepatitis C reflects lack of access to treatment

Only around 3% of people chronically infected with hepatitis C (HCV) were started on antiviral treatment each year in England between 2006 and 2011, according to figures published by Public Health England (PHE).

The figures reflect a lack of awareness about the infection and a lack of access to treatment in the at-risk groups — mostly injecting drug users or those who have injected drugs in the past, the report ‘Hepatitis C in the UK’, warns.

Scotland’s hepatitis C action plan is described in the report as an exemplar of good practice, but the figures show that the annual number of people initiated on antiviral therapy has remained relatively stable at between 1,000 and 1,052 over the past four years (of 20,300 diagnosed individuals).

The number of people in England living with HCV-related cirrhosis or liver cancer will continue to rise from the current estimate of 10,850 to 13,590 by 2025 if the low uptake of treatment continues, the report says.

If more effective treatments are made available and all patients with chronic HCV are treated, then 8,340 fewer people could be living with HCV-related cirrhosis or liver cancer by 2025, it calculates. 

Figures show that across the UK the number of hospital admissions, liver transplants and deaths from HCV continue to rise.

The number of admissions from HCV-related end stage liver disease went up from 608 in 1998 to 2,390 in 2012 and the number of deaths from 98 to 428. Figures for liver transplants quadrupled between 1996 and 2013 from 45 to 188.  

Some 214,000 people in the UK are thought to be chronically infected with HCV.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066012

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