There was an 11% decrease in the number of deaths linked to hepatitis in 2015, PHE’s annual report into the condition has found. The report states that the fall is likely due to a 40% rise in patients receiving direct acting antiviral drugs.
‘It’s early days, but with more patients being tested and improved treatments, there is genuine hope that we are seeing an impact on the number of deaths from hepatitis C related end-stage liver disease and liver cancer,’ said Helen Harris, hepatitis C expert at PHE.
The organisation estimates that 160,000 people in England are living with hepatitis C. The report also states that people who inject drugs are of a particular concern when tackling hepatitis. It states that only half of those who inject drugs were aware of their status, leading to problems accessing treatment.
‘Many people may be unaware of their infection because they have only mild or no symptoms. If we don’t do more to identify these people, they are likely to remain unaware of their risk until they present with advanced disease,’ added Dr Harris. ‘Healthcare professionals in primary care and other settings should therefore consider hepatitis C testing in people who may be at risk.’
Earlier in 2016, the World Health Assembly adopted a Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis for 2016-2021, calling for a 10% reduction in hepatitis C deaths by 2020. According to PHE, the UK is on course to meet this target.
‘Working together, we must do more to increase diagnoses, ensure easier access to testing and treatment and further develop care pathways and support for people with HCV,’ said Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE. ‘There are challenges, but we continue to work with our partners to identify practical solutions.’
World Hepatitis Day is on 28 July this year and the theme this year is elimination.