Stanford's Samuel So, MD, wants to eliminate viral hepatitis in the United States. Rubbing out a disease that causes more than 20,000 deaths in the U.S. each year is a huge goal -- but, according to a recent report, it could be accomplished by 2030 if a series of steps are taken.
So, a liver cancer expert and long-time anti-hepatitis campaigner, served on the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that wrote the report, and he recently spoke with School of Medicine writer Rosanne Spector about the initiative.
Building public support around the goal of elimination is a win in and of itself, So told Spector, explaining:
It's unfortunate that most people, including policymakers, philanthropic foundations and many leaders in academic medicine and global health, are not knowledgeable or aware of the prevalence and seriousness of chronic hepatitis B and C infections, their link to rising rates of liver cancer and the opportunities for elimination...
So, I am really excited that we are finally talking about national and global elimination of hepatitis B and C.
Often, infections don't lead to immediate symptoms, so many people have the virus for years before they are diagnosed. Ensuring everyone infected has access to cost-effective treatment is also a challenge, he said.
So also laid out what is needed to make stamping out viral hepatitis a reality:
It would require our government to recognize elimination of hepatitis B and C as a national priority and to oversee a coordinated, funded effort that includes eliminating mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission; increasing access to adult hepatitis B immunization; increasing chronic hepatitis B and C screening, vaccination, care and treatment in primary care and correctional facilities; eliminating restrictions for hepatitis C treatments; expanding needle exchange and opioid-agonist therapy; and finding a source of sustainable financing to overcome the costs of hepatitis C medications.
Previously: To screen or not to screen for hepatitis C, Building the case for a national hepatitis B treatment program in China and Despite steep price tag, use of hepatitis C drug among prisoners could save money overall
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