HCV Virus may completely disappear

If more HCV infections were diagnosed, it could be eradicated from our globe in 15 years.

Even though the HCV virus which leads to hepatocellular cancer is completely treatable, provided that it is diagnosed early, in Poland still many people learn about their condition too late, when the early diagnostics advantage is much restricted already. The lack of diagnostic programmes is a problem.

This is why launching a National Programme for thee Eradiation of the HCV Virus (NPEV HCV) is so important. The implementation of the programme as fast as possible was the topic of the discussion of experts in the panel entitled: “NPE WHCV. Poland compared to the rest of Europe. Whom to inform? How to inform? Who should be tested and how?

As explained by Professor Jerzy Jaroszewicz, MD, of the Chair and of the Ward for Infectious Diseases of the Medical University of Silesia, in epidemiological terms, Poland is placed in the middle of the rate, and the frequency of antibodies is lower by approx. 0.7 per cent than in Western Europe. A study from 2011, carried out on a group of 26 thousand hospital patients unrelated with HCV showed that the viral replication manifested in approximately 220 thousand people. Further studies show that the group of those ill is slightly smaller: about 100 to–140 thousand people.

“Frequent hospitalisations are the main risk factor of becoming infected. A high number of infections is reported among those who had blood transfusions but also minor surgical procedures in the esthetical medicine, for example. The risk group also includes those who take narcotics intravenously,” said Professor Jaroszewicz. HCV is one of the first treatable chronic diseases. However, it is the number of detected infections that is the problem. If more of them were diagnosed, the infection could be eradicated from the globe in 10 to 15 years.

Professor Mirosław Wysocki, the Director of the National Institute for Public Health – the National Hygiene Institute (NIZP-PZH) agreed that the estimated number of those infected is smaller than previously assessed and amounts to approx. 165 thousand people, while several thousand of those who had contact with the virus have stayed healthy because they fought the virus at the start.

“Eighty-five per cent of those ill are not aware of their condition. However, they should, because we can offer them efficient therapies. Lack of funds in the state budget is yet another impediment. Since those people undergo tests themselves, the number of those diagnosed will grow. Targeted screening is the solution, and a model example is Georgia, where active infection was discovered in 10 per cent of 500 thousand people. People complaining of ailments that point to infection may be tested. A couple of weeks ago we submitted the guidelines for the NPEV HCV programme to Minister of Health Konstanty Radziwiłł based on the assumptions that the screening will be performed at the level of the primary care physician,” said Professor Andrzej Horban, national consulting expert for infectious diseases, and he assured that Poland had a plan for eliminating HCV in place and was implementing it.

“In the 70s and 80s, we had large epidemics of hepatitis B. In recent years, as few as about a dozen cases of HBV are diagnosed. The HCV eradication programme has been realized for years. Right now, ten thousand people are waiting for treatment, but the queue will disappear after the first half of the next year and we will only have to react to new infections. Full access to the medications and a network of specialized therapeutic centres are our strong points,” he said.

Professor Ricardo Baptista-Leite, member of the Portuguese Parliament, said that cooperation of the members of parliament of all political parties proved to be the key to success of the national programme to fight the disease. “In 2014, before the therapeutic programme had been introduced, most of the patients attended the therapy with private practitioners, bringing money to the private healthcare sector. The year 2015, when the cross-party consensus was made, saw a breakthrough and a governmental programme was implemented. Out of 17,591 patients, therapy was started with 11,792 people, and 6639 were cured,” said Professor Ricardo Baptista Leite.

 

“Every year, 60 thousand Europeans die of HCV. Eradication of HCV by 50 per cent until 2020 is the all-European target,” said Paulo Goncalves, a partner and the Managing Director at BCG Barcelona.

Stefan Bogusławski, the Managing Partner and President of the Management Board of PEX Pharma Sequence, pointed that the issue of costs is of fundamental importance. “In order for the programme can be implemented in Poland, an efficiency coefficient must be established including the performance indicators, and a register which will allow the introduction of the risk sharing elements. Also factors must be determined that will allow us to measure the prevalence. It will be much more difficult to introduce the programme without them. It is vital for us that the programme has a fast and large effect,” emphasized Stefan Bogusławski.

Michał Kamierski, the General Director of Gilead Sciences Poland, said that the pharmaceutical industry, who works to develop new medicines, plays an obvious role in fighting HCV. It is also important that corporations and doctors strive to reach a consensus and seek to cooperate. –”In Poland the awareness of the problem is insufficient which is why education is so important,” he stressed.

Rzeczpospolita