Deaths from serious hepatitis C related liver disease fell by 16.1% between 2015 and 2017 according to data from PHE.
Deaths fell from 380 to 319, due to new curative treatments. As well as the fall in hepatitis C deaths, greater access to new curative treatments is also linked to a reduction in the number of people with the disease requiring liver transplants. In 2017, registrations for a liver transplant due to hepatitis C fell to a 10-year low of 63, a 53% decrease compared to pre-2015 levels.
‘Hepatitis C infection can have devastating consequences, so the fact that more people are accessing treatment and fewer people are dying from the disease, is a huge and very welcome step forward,’ said Dr Helen Harris, Senior Scientist at PHE.
‘Yet, more needs to be done if we are to eliminate this disease as a major public health threat in England. Over a hundred thousand people in this country are thought to be living with this serious infection, and we know that significant numbers of them are unaware they are infected.’
Although positive, PHE say that challenges remain if the UK is to meet the WHO’s target of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030. At the latest, with 113,000 people estimated to be living with chronic hepatitis C in England in 2018,’ while estimates indicate that up to 79,000 people are currently living with undiagnosed active hepatitis C infection.
‘Anyone who may be at risk of infection, in particular those who have ever injected drugs, even if they injected only once or in the past, should get tested,’ added Dr Harris. ‘Given that new treatments provide a cure in around 95% of those who take them, there has never been a better time to get tested.’