Deaths from hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease fell by 11 per cent last year compared to 2016, according to new figures from Public Health England (PHE).
The fall, which comes after a decade of continuous increases, is ‘most likely’ due to the growing use of new antiviral medications available on the NHS, says PHE. These ‘have the potential to cure the condition in most cases’ and also have fewer side effects than previously used medications such as interferon.
The number of people accessing treatment is also up by 19 per cent compared to the previous year, and by 125 per cent on pre-2015 levels. More than 200,000 people are thought to be infected with hepatitis C – with around half of them likely to be unaware of their infection – and there is still an average of 1,974 new end-stage liver disease and cancer diagnoses per year.
The NHS has a target of eliminating the virus by 2025 but a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Liver Health earlier this year said that ‘substantially greater’ numbers of people would need to be tested, diagnosed and treated if this were to be achieved (DDN, April, page 4)
‘The fall in deaths from hepatitis C related advanced liver disease in the last year suggests that more people are accessing new, potentially curative treatments and shows we’re making positives steps towards reaching our overall goal of elimination of hepatitis C as a major public health threat,’ said PHE consultant epidemiologist, Dr Sema Mandal.
‘However, more needs to be done. We are urging anyone who has ever injected drugs, even once or a long time ago, had a tattoo or medical treatment overseas where proper hygiene procedures may not have been followed, or has had a blood transfusion before hepatitis C screening was in place, to get tested at their GP, community drug services or sexual health clinic. It could save your life.’
Hepatitis C in the UK: 2018 report here
See September’s DDN for an eight-page pull out on hepatitis C and health