New breakthroughs in hepatitis C create public health opportunities.
New breakthrough medicines for Hepatitis C present an important choice about setting goals and taking systemic action to achieve public health advances in the United States. Despite appearing to offer cure rates greater than 90 percent, high-priced Hepatitis C drugs have driven treatment rationing since their approval over two years ago. Gaps in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of Hepatitis C pose significant public health consequences.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified Hepatitis C as the leading infectious killer in the United States in 2014—the first year in which new medicines for the disease were available—claiming more lives (nearly 20,000) than 60 other infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, pneumococcal disease, and tuberculosis, combined.
However, recent steps have improved the prospects for many patients waiting for treatment. In March, the Veterans Affairs department announced access to Hepatitis C medicines for all patients regardless of disease stage. Last month, New York State Medicaid also lifted treatment restrictions. A newly organized Institute of Medicine committee on viral hepatitis proclaimed in its interim April report that the “elimination of hepatitis C as a public health problem in the United States is feasible.” Notably, the committee stopped short of setting a national goal for the elimination of Hepatitis C, as they continue to study the challenge for their final report due in 2017.
While advances in access to Hepatitis C treatment for some individuals could mark an important shift, we suggest that increased access can be leveraged in the direction of a larger, strategic aim: an explicit public health target.
Read Full Article: Making Hepatitis C A Rare Disease In The United States
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