Hepatitis C leaders in Canada urge the adoption of a national strategy to treat hepatitis C.
Fears about the high cost of hepatitis drug treatment must not delay action on a pan-Canadian hepatitis strategy, a coalition of 35 health groups charged in a statement released Mar. 10.
Action Hepatitis Canada (AHC), which includes the Canadian AIDS Society and the Canadian Liver Foundation, wants Ottawa to act now on a 2014 World Health Organization resolution urging member states to adopt national hepatitis plans similar to those already implemented by Australia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“National strategies in these countries promote prevention and screening, as well as price controls for HCV [hepatitis C virus] medicines,” says Patricia Bacon, chair of the AHC’s steering and executive committees. A national hepatitis strategy would result in higher treatment rates, improved prevention strategies, higher treatment retention, fewer treatment disparities and new pharmaceutical treatments moving faster to market, she says.
Hepatitis is not a small problem, Bacon emphasizes. According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, more than 500 000 Canadians are likely chronically infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
In a Jan. 25 statement, AHC also asked the federal government to take steps to curb the expense of new hepatitis medicines, some of which cost up to $60 000 for the complete treatment. The coalition wants the federal government to force down prices through measures such as bulk buying.