ELPA, EASL and MEPs call for immediate EU action to fight hepatitis and its deadly consequences – ELPA – European Liver Patients Association

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2009-03-31 12:00

  On 2 March 2009, ELPA together with EASL and the support of Mr. Alojz Peterle MEP presented the findings of a survey on the political commitment to combat hepatitis in Europe, as well as expert recommendations for the promotion of early diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B and C.

Mr. Alojz Peterle MEP explains the scale of the problem: “Hepatitis represents one of the major challenges for public health in Europe. If policy makers want to lower tomorrow’s mortality and morbidity rates, they have to act today.”

ELPA President, Nadine Piorkowsky, stressed the substantial unawareness of hepatitis in Europe and the unacceptable lack of political commitment in many Member States to fight the disease.

Key finding of the survey in fact indicate that:

  • In the EU, an average 79% of patients did not know what hepatitis C was and 70% were not aware of being at risk once they had been diagnosed, whereas an average of 73% of patients did not know what hepatitis B was before being diagnosed and 67% were not aware of the ways it can be transmitted.
  • Only France, Spain and United Kingdom have conducted hepatitis awareness campaigns.
  • France, the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden are the only countries to have developed a comprehensive national plan to fight hepatitis.
  Dr. Heiner Wedemeyer, Vice-Secretary of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), highlighted the strong link between hepatitis and liver cancer, which make early diagnosis and subsequent treatment imperative “Liver cancer is very frequently fatal and the incidence has already doubled in the past 20 years. Since there is a strong relationship between Hepatitis and liver cancer, concrete efforts have to be made to find those hepatitis carriers, so they can become patients and receive treatment before cancer can set in”.

Dr. David Goldberg, from Health Protection Scotland, highlighted the positive results of Hepatitis C Action Plan for Scotland and indicated that a comprehensive plan based on an extensive evidence base, supported by serious investment can address inequalities in hepatitis prevention, diagnosis and treatment. In light of the widespread political inertia, ELPA and EASL called for action at EU level Nadine Piorkowsky concluded,

“If Member States don’t act, the EU has to guide them in the development of targeted screening campaigns for Hepatitis risk groups. Countries like France or Scotland have proven that investment in the fight against Hepatitis pays off. There is no reason why this should not be replicated by other Member States.”

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