The challenge of Hepatitis C in Central and South Eastern Europe was at the heart of an event hosted by the MEP Friends of the Liver Interest Group co-chairs Dr Cristian Busoi, MEP, Dr Biljana Borzan, MEP and Dr Andrey Kovatchev, MEP and co-organised by the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), the European Liver Patients Association (ELPA) and the European Public Health Alliance. The area is affected by one of the highest rates of HCV prevalence in the EU, but struggles due to limited access to screening, diagnosis and treatment.
Dagmar Hedrich of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction addressed the risk of Hepatitis C infection for People Who Inject Drugs. “Reducing the HCV burden in Europe in the future depends on implementing policies that increase the availability of interventions to prevent and treat HCV among PWID”, Hedrich stated.
“It is completely unacceptable that hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) continue to be so poorly addressed in Europe. There are excellent prevention and treatment possibilities, well-thought-out strategies are available, and we have numerous international initiatives, especially from WHO. The recently launched Hep-CORE study is the only survey in the European Union that addresses the government response to hepatitis B and C in 27 different countries. It was initiated by patients, executed by experts and it is monitored by national patient organizations. I expect this study to change the landscape of viral hepatitis policy surveillance on a regional, and even global, level”, commented Tatjana Reic, President of ELPA.
Professor Helena Cortez Pinto of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) presented the EASL treatment guidelines for Hepatitis C patients. The guidelines have been drawn up by leading European experts in the field and suggest that there should be universal access to treatment for all patients. It is also necessary to ensure that patients are screened for pre-existing conditions such as kidney and cardiovascular disease as these diseases can affect the success of the treatments offered. Ultimately, the treating physician should be able to decide, in consultation with the patient what the right treatment regimen is for them as an individual.
Yannis Natsis, of the European Public Health Alliance concluded that patients are being let down twice – firstly by dramatic cuts to prevention and public health programmes across Europe, and secondly by the high prices which stand in the way of accessing treatment. An unaffordable treatment is as good as a non-existent one from a patient’s perspective.