As many as 4.7 million Americans live with hepatitis C. A new “Fast Facts” published by the Alliance for Patient Access brings attention to the public health threat of hepatitis C and what can be done to eliminate it.
The Impact of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C affects the liver, and it can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, among other problems, if left untreated. Today, 40% of Americans estimated to be infected by hepatitis C are thought to be unaware of their status.
The paper highlights the growing threat of hepatitis C, which:
- Kills more Americans than HIV does every year
- Spreads predominantly through intravenous drug use
- Commonly presents no symptoms in its earliest stages
- Can spread more quickly because many people don’t realize they have the virus.
State and public health officials are taking action through elimination plans, the paper explains. States’ plans are tailored to reflect their unique needs, though all are guided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan.
Hepatitis elimination plans typically advise several strategies:
- Expanding hepatitis C screening
- Improving patients’ access to curative treatment, known as direct-acting antivirals
- Arranging innovative payment models with health plans and industry
- Increasing outreach to at-risk populations.
Some states – like New York, Louisiana and Washington – have been forerunners in the effort to eliminate hepatitis C in the United States.
Barriers to Elimination
While some states are making strides toward eliminating hepatitis C, the paper notes, certain barriers stand in the way. Among them:
- Testing in the adult population, especially among at-risk subgroups, is inadequate.
- Stigma associated with at-risk populations can blunt outreach efforts.
- Red tape, bureaucracy and costs can keep patients from accessing curative treatments.
These barriers, the paper notes, must be removed for states and the nation at large to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat.
Removing these barriers will require policy change, the paper notes. But improved access to curative treatment can have a huge impact, helping to reduce the $100 billion that hepatitis C costs Americans each year.
Learn more by reading the Alliance for Patient Access’ “Fast Facts: Eliminating Hepatitis C in America.”