Welcome to HCV Advocate’s hepatitis blog. The intent of this blog is to keep our website audience up-to-date on information about hepatitis and to answer some of our web site and training audience questions. People are encouraged to submit questions and post comments.

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Alan Franciscus
Editor-in-Chief
HCV Advocate
HBV Advocate

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Eradicate hepatitis

By Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.)

Across our country and around the world, hepatitis B and C have taken countless lives and the numbers continue to explode. Regrettably, this rise is partially tied to the heroin epidemic in our country—since the 1990s the medical use and subsequent abuse of highly addictive opioids like Oxycontin has risen tremendously

The overuse of medication has caused too many Americans to succumb to addiction, and many turn to heroin. The rise in heroin use means that individuals are sharing needles as their need for the drug outweighs safety concerns.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there were nearly 30,000 new hepatitis C infections in 2013, a 150 percent increase since 2010. The CDC also found an alarming rise in new infections among people under the age of 30, especially in rural areas.

Tragically, hepatitis infection, driven by drug abuse, threatens an alarming portion of an entire generation of Americans. We must do everything we can to help address heroin and opioid addiction.

Hepatitis C and hepatitis B are life threatening yet preventable diseases. Look at the story of Rob, of Hawaii. He met his wife Mei over 30 years ago when they were students at the University of Hawaii.

She is Chinese from Hong Kong, and he is Caucasian. In the over 30 years since they first met they’ve built a life in Hawaii. They have two kids in their 20s—both college educated and looking to build families and lives of their own.

Their life was great—until Mei suddenly became ill. Only weeks after first taking ill, Mei passed away from liver failure.

To add to this incredible tragedy, shortly before Mei’s passing they learned that not only Mei - but both of their children - had been infected by hepatitis B since birth.

For over 30 years, they’d never known that they were infected by hepatitis.

Hepatitis is 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus, and in the U.S. perinatal transmission, or being passed from mother to child immediately before or after birth, is one of the primary ways that people contract the disease. It’s a silent killer that slowly destroys the liver, often displaying no symptoms in those infected with the virus until it is too late – the liver is diseased, riddled with cancer, cirrhosis, or end-stage failure.

Around the world, four hundred million people are living with hepatitis B or C. 1.4 million people die annually from complications due to viral hepatitis. In the United States, approximately 6 million individuals have hepatitis B or C, likely an underestimate. Both hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of liver cancer, and 65-75 percent of infected individuals do not know that they have either virus.

The difficulty with identifying the disease means that we do not have accurate data on infections. Without accurate data, we do not have a strong grasp of the scope of the problem. If we don’t take decisive action soon, our health care system will face a significant burden in decades to come.

We simply cannot handle the costs of the rampant spread of a disease whose complications are entirely preventable.

Stopping hepatitis has to be a three-step process.
First, people need to get tested, especially those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, of which one in 10 will get hepatitis B.

Second, we need to make treatment options available to everyone regardless of income level.

And third, we must continue to invest in research on hepatitis to rid the world of the viruses once and for all.

This week, we recognized World Hepatitis Day, a day that President Obama declared by proclamation for the first time in the United States. This day was an opportunity to make a new commitment to educating people about the silent killers, helping prevent further infection rate spikes, identifying infected individuals, and providing them with proper medical care.

Working together, we can eradicate this preventable, treatable virus and save millions of lives.
Hirono is Hawaii’s junior senator, serving since 2013. She sits on the Armed Services; the Energy and Natural Resources; the Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and the Veterans’ Affairs committees. Honda represents California’s 17th Congressional District and has served in the House since 2001. He sits on the Appropriations Committee.

Source: The Hill

Following Spike in Hepatitis C Cases, Kentucky Considers Expanding Screenings for Virus

Officials at the state and local levels are in discussions about offering hepatitis C testing at all Kentucky county health departments.

Some local offices offered the tests last year as part of a pilot project, when Kentucky began to see a spike in hepatitis C cases related to intravenous drug use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that Kentucky’s rate of hepatitis C is seven times higher than the national average.

Deputy Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh, with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, says increased screening opportunities would be a way for health and addiction experts to reach out to those who need help.

Read more...

Canada: Hepatitis C treatments skyrocket after pill-based drugs covered by B.C. plan

About 1,400 British Columbians have been treated for hepatitis C in the first four months since new anti-viral medications were covered by the province’s public drug plan — far above predictions.

The Ministry of Health expected 1,500 patients in the first full year for the pill-based medication.
Dr. Mel Krajden, medical head of hepatitis at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says the numbers reflect pent-up demand from patients seeking the latest treatments.

“A lot of people who are infected follow the literature on these drugs and they were waiting for the newer ones. It’s a whole group of people who realized these medications are more effective, better tolerated with fewer side effects and work over a shorter period of time,” Krajden said at a World Hepatitis Day event Tuesday in Vancouver.

- See more at: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Hepatitis+treatments+skyrocket+after+pill+based+drugs+covered+plan/11249876/story.html#sthash.MT3sDoLJ.dpuf

Canada: Warning to all baby boomers: get tested for Hep C

A Saskatoon nurse predicts a surge of liver disease among baby boomers due to undiagnosed Hepatitis C.

“We’re going to see this huge wave of patients with end stage liver disease that are going to be dying from, potentially, liver cancer, kidney failure due to issues with their liver, and this is now the beginning,” said Lesley Gallagher, a Hepatitis C treatment support nurse with the Saskatoon Infectious Disease Care Network in Riversdale.

“We’re seeing it now, and we’re going to keep on seeing it.”

The number of Canadians with advanced liver disease is increasing, according to a 2014 study published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. More than 20 per cent of those who are infected with Hepatitis C will have significant complications from their disease by 2035, the study found.

Read more...

25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act — July 2015

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)


Weekly

July 31, 2015 / 64(29);777


July 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of their everyday lives, such as work, school, transportation, communication, recreation, and access to state and local government services. When first enacted, ADA defined a disability as a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities."(1)

During the last 2 decades, multiple national surveys measured disability in various ways because of substantial differences in the conceptualization and definition of disability. More recently, several national health surveys incorporated a recommended standard set of questions assessing functional types of disability.

In recognition of ADA's milestone anniversary, this issue of MMWR includes a report using the first data available on functional types of disability in a state-based health survey. It includes prevalence of functional disability using a standard set of disability questions rather than measuring disability in a nonspecific manner. This report presents the percentage of adults with any disability and with specific types of disabilities by state and key demographic characteristics (e.g., sex, age, race/ethnicity).

For more information on disability research and surveillance and state and national disability programs and resources, access the CDC's Disability and Health Branch, available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/.

Reference

  1. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. 101-336, 104 Stat. 328 (July 26, 1990) [amended January 1, 2009]. Available at http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htmExternal Web Site Icon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Merck Targets Toughest Cases to Gain Hepatitis C Foothold

Merck & Co. plans to target hard-to-treat hepatitis C patients with its cure for the liver ailment rather than compete for market share by drastically undercutting the price of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s $1,000-a-day treatment.

Merck said Tuesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted its application for approval of the single pill, which combines the medications grazoprevir and elbasvir, and granted the medicine a priority review. That means Merck is on course to introduce the treatment to the market early next year.

The field for hepatitis C patients is currently divided between AbbVie Inc. and Gilead, which have locked up arrangements with the leading managers of drug coverage in U.S. health insurance plans, ensuring their medications are the first choice. Still, Merck doesn’t foresee trouble attracting patients.

Read more...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Canada: 'Get informed, get tested': getting the word out about hepatitis C

Steve Pollard came close to death, underwent two liver transplants, and received treatment with experimental drugs before he was clear of hepatitis C and began to get his life back. When he recovered, he vowed he would devote his life to raising awareness about the viral disease — known as the “silent killer” — with the hope of preventing others from going through what he did.

Pollard, 48, was one of the speakers at an event outside Ottawa City Hall on Tuesday to mark World Hepatitis Day.

His message: “Get informed, get tested and tell a friend or loved one to do the same. If you are not doing it for yourself, do it for them.”

Read more...