Hepatitis C could be eradicated within two years through a campaign to identify and treat the people most at risk.
The British NHS has set 2025 as the year of eradication of the virus, five years ahead of global targets and timelines.
Mortality has fallen by 35% in six years, far exceeding the World Health Organization’s target of 10%. This puts England in the prime position to be the first country in the world to declare itself free of a virus that can lead to liver disease and cancer.
The progress follows a five-year contract worth around £1 billion to procure antivirals that have a 95% cure rate.
The NHS’s “treatment and research” programs have also helped reduce the incidence of hepatitis C among vulnerable populations such as the homeless.
To date, about 70,000 patients have been treated for this disease through the program, which has also greatly reduced the need for liver transplants.
Rachel Halford of the Hepatitis C Trust called the progress “truly amazing.”
“Now we need a final concerted effort to make sure we reach everyone who may be affected and get to the bottom of it,” she said.
Health officials said the number of people needing liver transplants due to the virus has dropped from about 140 a year to less than 50 in 2020.
People from the most disadvantaged segments of the population saw the greatest benefit, with 80% of treatment provided to the most disadvantaged half of the population.
This includes children born with the infection, with more than 100 children receiving antiretroviral drugs to treat infections last year alone.
Professor Stephen Boyce, NHS England’s National Medical Director, said the NHS is “leading the world” in saving lives and eliminating hepatitis C while addressing “significant” health inequalities.
He said: “With rigorous screening and the NHS having a proven track record of delivering amazing drug development agreements that give patients access to the latest technology, we are on track to reach the global targets of becoming the first country to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. a year would be a landmark achievement.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that, if left untreated, can cause liver cancer and liver failure.
And usually, symptoms don’t show up until the virus has done enough damage to cause liver disease.
Symptoms may include fatigue and difficulty concentrating. The virus has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, kidney disease, and musculoskeletal pain.
Because the homeless are at greatest risk, the NHS has worked with charities, including St Mungos, to track and treat people at risk of contracting the disease.
Specialized teams conducted examinations on the same day, and also helped to complete the full course of treatment.
Substance use, toothbrush and razor sharing, and other common sleep-related lifestyle factors are among the many reasons that make homeless people more vulnerable to hepatitis C.
Source: Daily Mail