Friday, May 12, 2017

News Recap

HCV on the Rise in Boomers, Women and Children
A new report from the CDC in the USA has found that HCV is concentrated among baby boomers and is increasing rapidly among new generations of Americans.  In over just five years, the number of new hepatitis C virus infections reported to the CDC has nearly tripled, reaching a 15-year high. New hepatitis C virus infections are increasing most rapidly among young people, with the highest overall number of new infections among 20- to 29-year-olds. This is primarily a result of increasing injection drug use associated with America’s growing opioid epidemic (U.S.: CDC – New Hepatitis C Infections Nearly Tripled Over Five Years).

Furthermore, the CDC reports a 213% increase in women of child-bearing age as a result of heroin epidemic – putting the youngest generation of Americans at risk.  The reason is that women are more likely to share needles or start using intravenous drugs with a sexual partner than men are. Women may more often have unprotected sex with an HCV-infected man for various reasons. So getting women into care & treatment & providing education to protect future infection is crucial (Women & HCV – Screen & Treat Early / Screen Pregnant Women to Prevent Transmission to Children).

To top it all off, WHO’s most recent hepatitis report reveals the global impact of the disease. Awareness and education around hepatitis remain poor, with just 20% of people living with hep C aware of their status after getting tested. The World Health Organization’s first-of-its-kind investigation of the global hepatitis situation also found that only 9% of people living with hepatitis B knew they were affected. Between them the two strains account for 96% of all hepatitis deaths, with the condition currently accounting for an annual death toll of 1.34 million people.

And what do the experts at the CDC and WHO conclude?  Raquel Peck, CEO of WHA, said: “We need to use this report to advocate for a public health approach so that testing and treatment are rolled out at the scale necessary to ensure that every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life. We have the knowledge, what we need now is action.” (Just 20% of people living with hep C are aware of their status).

Listen up Canada!!!

Meanwhile in Canada, where no one does drugs, there are no boomers and women don’t have sex or children, Elizabeth Rains has written a book called Demon in my Blood: My Fight with Hep C – and a Miracle Cure, which basically sounds like it could have been written in the USA and used as part of the latest CDC report on HCV and Women.  Rains laments the fact that she was not tested early and is really upset with Canada’s new policy not to extend testing to Boomers. The book has not yet been released but you can order it now (The baby boomers’ stealth killer: hepatitis C).

If, however, you live in BC and are lucky enough to get tested but unlucky enough to be diagnosed with HCV, scientists in Vancouver have developed a new screening tool that reveals the genetic signature of an individual’s hepatitis C virus so that doctors can customize their treatment. The tool, funded by Genome B.C. and devised by researchers at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, could save money and lives, said Anita Howe, scientific lead for the hepatitis C program.  This tool is especially needed for at-risk populations (PWID, MSM) where re-infection with HCV and the possibility of viral mutation and resistance is very high (B.C. developed hepatitis C screening test personalizes treatment for patients).

A Message from Action Hepatitis Canada: In April, your Member of Parliament received this invitation to attend a Hepatitis C Learning Event we are hosting on Parliament Hill on May 18th. Over the next few days, we need you to follow up with your MP and let him/her know that hepatitis C is an issue of important to you, and that you are hoping they will be in attendance. AHC Member Call to Action: MP Engagement.

Other News
Speaking of testing, although most people with hepatitis C virus can be cured, about 5 percent have more serious liver damage even after the virus is gone. A saliva test could identify genetic markers that indicate which people with hepatitis C and cirrhosis will benefit from certain treatments. Researchers say this test could help doctors predict outcomes after treating hepatitis C, and decrease the need for liver transplants. But of course this presupposes that we are actively testing our populations! (Genetic Test Could Predict Transplant Success in People with Hep C, Cirrhosis).

And if you have been tested and are positive, you might be able to be treated soon with AbbVie’s new 8-week pangenotypic treatment, which has been just been granted a special Early Access to Medicines (EAMs) status in the UK. This new treatment has already been given Priority Review status in Japan and the USA (AbbVie’s 8-week hepatitis C drug granted early access in UK).

Georgia on My Mind
Thousands of Georgians have been cured of hepatitis C as a result of a giant experiment, in which the ex-Soviet nation tests the effectiveness of an aggressive public-health strategy. In the unprecedented project, all Georgians suffering from hepatitis C – an estimated 130,000 individuals – are being treated with expensive American medications free of charge. The program has entered its third year this May, and by 2020, Georgia hopes to be the first country in the world virtually free of the infectious liver disease (Georgia Serves as Proving Ground for Experiment to Eradicate Hepatitis C).