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Friday, March 31, 2017

News Recap

Canada
Good news from Saskatchewan this week: The Sask. Ministry of Health has signed a deal similar to those in BC, Ontario and Quebec and will soon be paying for six new drugs. The province estimates 12,000 people suffer from HepC in the province (Saskatchewan expands coverage for 6 hepatitis C drugs).

Bad news from Calgary, Alberta: Alberta Health Services has shut down an illegal dental clinic in Calgary that was operating in the basement of a house in the southwest community of Somerset.  From all appearances, sterilization of equipment did not take place.  Yikes!!!  It is amazing that this type of activity keeps cropping up (Patients at Calgary home dental clinic may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis: AHS).

Uh-oh
New research suggests that the hepatitis B and C viruses may be linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Carried out by a team from the University of Oxford, U.K., the study looked at hospital records from a large British database. The results showed that those with hepatitis B were 76 per cent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those in the comparison group, and people with hepatitis C were 51 per cent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease (New research suggests hepatitis B and C could increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease).

Other News
Good news from France: France has negotiated with Gilead to bring down the prices of hepatitis C medicines. According to the ministry’s press release, the price decrease for the drugs Harvoni and Sovaldi is described as “very substantial.” New prices are expected to come into effect on 1 April. For Sovaldi, it will drop from €41,000 euros to less than €28,700 euros. The new prices will allow continued universal access to hepatitis C for patients in France (France Reaches Agreement with Gilead To Drop Prices of Hepatitis C Treatment).

Meanwhile other countries in Europe are struggling to treat their populations.  As a result, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has filed a patent challenge on the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir with the European Patient Office (EPO) in an effort to increase access to affordable hepatitis C treatment. MSF has joined Médecins du Monde (MdM) and other civil society organisations from 17 countries in simultaneously filing patent challenges on the pharmaceutical corporation Gilead’s monopoly on sofosbuvir, in a bid to remove the barrier (MSF joins Europe-wide action challenging patent on key hepatitis C drug).

Meanwhile, new research show that we are not out of the woods yet; gene mutation poses a real threat to global eradication of hepatitis C.  This is really important to note, especially where reinfection occurs from repeated transmission in at-risk populations.  The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is known to mutate to avoid recognition by antibodies, neutralizing molecules of the host’s immune system. Surprisingly, researchers found that these mutations can occur in genes unrelated to the antibody binding site in the virus. Yikes! (HCV Gene Mutations Present New Challenges for Vaccine Development).

Finally
There are some excellent materials available for free from the 10th Paris Hepatology Conference, which was held at the end of January 2017.  You can access the materials here: http://www.aphc.info/materials-phc-paris-hepatology-conference-2017/