World Hepatitis Day, 28 July, 2014: Celebration in croatia

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As in the previous years, Croatian Association of treated and ill from Hepatitis (CATIH Hepatos), along with Croatian Alliance of Hepatitis Patient Associations, organised activities on occasion of World Hepatitis Day (WHD) in order to raise awareness of hepatitis, known as the silent killer.

However, celebration of the WHD this year in Croatia was dampened by the recent decision of the Croatian Health Insurance Fond to reduce funding for hepatitis treatment out of the State Budget (so called List of particularly expensive drugs) and have the hospitals pay certain therapies out of their own budget. As this meant unavailability of treatment for many hepatitis patients due to hospitals' poor financial situation, we immediately reacted by sending an advocacy letter on the 29th of June to more than 300 addresses including Members of Parliament, media and other relevant decision makers and stakeholders in Croatia raising awareness about hepatitis on occasion on WHD 2014.

On July 24, 2014 representatives from CATIH Hepatos had an arranged meeting with the Croatian Minister of Health, Siniša Varga. However, Mr Varga wasn’t available to attend the meeting, so HULOH Hepatos introduced to his assistant the previously mentioned current problems facing hepatitis patients in Croatia.

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On July 25, 2014 ''Public Policy Analysis in the domain of viral hepatitis in the Republic of Croatia'' was presented at a professional symposium at a University Hospital for Infectious Diseases “Dr. Fran Mihaljević”. Present were about 70 participants, from healthcare workers to representatives of pharmaceutical companies and patient organizations.

Independently made Public Policy Analysis in the domain of viral hepatitis in the Republic of Croatia is a unique document, created for the first time in Croatia. Analysis was made by the Research centre GONG as part of the HEPATOS’ project InfoHep Centre, funded from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) of the European Union. The document contains relevant epidemiological information and detected problems as well as priorities for further coordinated work, development of a national strategy and a multiannual action plan that will define organizational and financial obligations for institutions on all levels of government, including partnerships with organizations of civil society.

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On July 25, 2014 CATIH Hepatos co-organized a press conference in Zagreb on occasion of WHD during which the attendees were presented with the data regarding epidemiological situation and treatment possibilities in Croatia as well as in the European Union. Also, patient organizations gave their insight into the detected problems and priorities for further coordinated work and development of a national strategy.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. sc. Tamara Poljičanin, dr. med., the Head of the Croatian Institute for Public Health
  • Prof. dr. sc. Adriana Vince, dr. med., Head of the Referral Center for diagnostics and treatment of the viral hepatitis in Croatia
  • Mr. sc. Tatjana Reić, dr. vet. med., President of the Croatian Alliance of Hepatitis Patient Associations and of The European Liver Patients Association (ELPA)

Mr. sc. Tatjana Reić warned against the lack of strategic approach to the problem of viral hepatitis in Croatia and presented ''Public Policy Analysis in the domain of viral hepatitis in the Republic of Croatia''.  It was emphasised how the absence of a National strategy slows down the progress in prevention, diagnostics, treatment and de-stigmatisation of persons ill from hepatitis.

Especially concerning are the recent changes in funding model of hepatitis treatment which resulted in the most expensive therapy drugs being moved from the list of particularly expensive drugs within the State Budget to hospitals’ budgets which will only increase inequalities in access to treatment. Additional dimension of the problem is insufficiently recognized role of patient organizations that bring to the table not just the perspective of those who are ill, but also experiential knowledge which shouldn’t be disregarded by decision makers.

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On July 28, on occasion of the World Hepatitis Day 2014, President of the Republic of Croatia, dr. Ivo Josipović received ELPA president, mr.sc.Tatjana Reić, representatives from CATIH HEPATOS - Croatian Assocciation of treated and ill from Hepatitis and Croatian Alliance of Hepatitis Patient Associations who gave the President insight into Croatian situation regarding viral hepatitis. This includes absence of a national strategy, insufficient funding for treatment as well as inadequate scope of prevention activities.

Mr. sc. Tatjana Reić, who is also the president of Hepatos, introduced dr. Josipović to the consequences of new therapy protocols installed by the Croatian Health Insurance Fond, by which the access to treatment for chronic hepatitis C patients in most need is significantly reduced.

CATIH Hepatos and Croatian Alliance of Hepatitis Patient Associations noted they will continue to organize free testing for viral hepatitis around Croatia with the goal of detecting illness as early as possible and treating it before it progresses to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

President Josipović was also presented with the independently made ‘’Public Policy Analysis in the domain of viral hepatitis’’.

CATIH Hepatos traditionally organizes free/anonymous testing to hepatitis and counselling on Croatian summer hotspot – beach Zrće. This year it was supposed to take place on July 27, however, due to bad weather, it was cancelled.