TIF calls for strenghtened collaboration and support on this day - World Hepatitis Day - 28 July 2015
Worldwide viral Hepatitis kills approximately 1.4 million people every year and more than 400 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and/or C, including special patient groups such as patients with thalassaemia and sickle cell disease, which both can be prevented. Yet there has been a remarkable lack of global action to combat these diseases, and is why in 2010 the World Health Organization made World Hepatitis Day one of only 4 official disease-specific world health days, to be celebrated each year on the 28th July. Millions of people across the world now take part in World Hepatitis Day, to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, and to call for access to treatment, better prevention programs and government action.
How can we contribute to the World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness?
There is an international appeal for 4,000 people to stand up and be counted in the quest to raise awareness of viral hepatitis. You can provide a voice for the 4,000 lives that will be lost on World Hepatitis Day this year. Together your voices become a powerful symbol for the need for action to prevent future deaths.
Simply tweet using the hashtag #4000voices or upload an image to contribute your Twitter avatar or photo to our collage and use to your voice to call for action (http://worldhepatitisday.org/en/4000-voices).
Considering that liver disease and in particular in thalassaemia is a multi-factorial consequence of iron load (due to regular blood transfusions) and infections from viral hepatitis (B or C), patients with thalassaemia comprising a particularly vulnerable patient population for developing severe liver disease.
In fact, liver disease is the most significant emerging medical complication in the more recent years, amongst patients with thalassaemia infected with HCV1. In this context, prevention and access to quality management and treatment constitutes a priority for the Thalassaemia International Federation.
Indeed, recent data reveal that the rates of infection of patients with thalassaemia infected with HCV and/or HBV, in the different countries globally, range between 12% and 85% and <1% and 25%, respectively.
Despite the fact that new infections in young ages in Europe, North America and some other countries of the world have been minimised due to the implementation at national level of specific and sensitive blood donor screening, voluntary non-remunerated blood donation practices and promotion of quality national blood transfusion services, still in many regions of the world, post-transfusion infections of both HBV and HCV continue to occur, and hence affecting patients across all ages.
In the majority of European countries such are related to ages over 30 years, prior to mandatory national measures taken as described above and these are much lower, if at all occurring at younger ages.
Moreover, for many years, treatment of HCV-infection, in thalassaemia patients was also jeorpadised on account of the ribavirin-associated haemolysis, which was considered for many years as a contra-indication for use in thalassaemia and other haemolytic anaemia patients. Today, treatment of patients with thalassaemia is again hampered and encounters immense ‘difficulties’ in accessing it, despite the dramatic advances in the development of effective and with high safety profile new drugs, due to their high costs.
To this effect, TIF congratulates the European Association for the study of Liver (EASL) for the development of guidelines for the treatment of viral Hepatitis C, which include the treatment of special patient groups such as patients with thalassaemia and sickle cell disease, and the World Health organisation (WHO) for including these new drugs in their revised ‘Essential Drug List’, which may be considered a huge ‘stepping stone’ in enabling Governments and the medical community to better assess the ‘benefits vs risks’ and costs of treating patients infected with viral hepatitis.
As a Federation, we would like to encourage Governments/national Health authorities to take appropriate actions in order to develop and/or implement holistic policies for viral hepatitis (prevention and treatment), including Hepatitis A (HAV) and E (HEV) which also pose another significant risk in patients with other co-morbidities, like patients with haemoglobin disorders.
How does TIF contribute to the promotion of Viral Hepatitis programmes?
TIF supports the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and other relevant organisations such as the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), as well as of Governments at the national, EU level and regional levels, in promoting programmes for the prevention and management of viral hepatitis, within and across countries in the different regions of the world.