Summit Conference Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C – ELPA – European Liver Patients Association

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2010-09-03 11:29

Luxembourg, Wednesday 1st September 2010: At least 23 million European Union (EU) citizens are currently living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C i, both cancer-causing viruses. In a direct response to the health burden this presents and the recent recognition by the WHO of the seriousness of hepatitis as a global health issue, a unique Partnership comprising key international public and private stakeholders has formed to drive the first EU-wide initiative on hepatitis B and C.

The new Partnership will work to achieve the formation of a European-wide strategy on the communication, prevention and management of viral hepatitis as a healthcare priority. As a first step towards this, the Partnership will host the Hepatitis B and C Summit Conference on 14-15th October 2010, where the latest research and advances will be presented and used to inform and drive future EU strategies and action plans in this neglected disease area. New studies will assess the impact of mobility of populations and patient self-help programmes in relation to the hepatitis epidemic.

Professor Angelos Hatzakis of Athens University Medical School and one of the co-chairs of the Partnership Steering Group said: “The burden and challenges associated with viral hepatitis across Europe require the active and concerted involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. Patients, specialists, primary health care providers, epidemiologists, policy makers, those responsible for health budgets, the general public, advocates, donors and the pharmaceutical sector should all work together to deliver the results so needed for these urgent diseases.”

The new Partnership involves the European Association for the Study of Liver Disease (EASL) and the European Liver Patient Association (ELPA). Other contributors include the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board (VHPB), the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The conference is supported by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO) and is being held under the auspices of the current EU Belgian presidency.

Nadine Piorkowsky, President of the European Liver Patients Association (ELPA) and co-chair of the Partnership Steering Group stated: “The development and implementation of specific policies to prevent, diagnose and control hepatitis B and C are long overdue as the burden of these diseases has significantly increased for the last ten years. This conference constitutes an important step forward as we will bring all the latest research to the table with a view to collectively evaluating the findings. The aim of this conference will be to present EU Member States with concrete policy recommendations on hepatitis B and C that can be implemented in their future health programmes.”

About one fifth of patients with chronic hepatitis B and C are at-risk of developing liver-cirrhosis or liver cancer ii – one of the top three causes of cancer death in men, and a major cause of death in women.iii A key challenge currently associated with viral hepatitis is that the true burden of the epidemic is under-estimated. Most patients are currently undiagnosed, with surveys amongst patients in Europe suggesting that only 21.5% knew they were infected at the time of diagnosis.iv Sixty three percent of patients were unaware that they were at risk (through sexual transmission and other lifestyle risk factors).iv Experts acknowledge the epidemic is growing: reported data show there are 8,000 and 29,000 newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis B and C respectively each year in the EU. However, this represents only diagnosed cases, rather than actual new infections.v

Notes to editors

About the conference
The Conference will run from midday on Thursday 14th October until the early afternoon of Friday 15th October. The Conference programme will be presented in 5 sessions over these 2 days.

The Hepatitis B and C Conference will respond directly to MEP Thomas Ulmer’s Call to Action on Hepatitis B at the European Parliament in 2006, the 2007 European Parliament Written Declaration on Hepatitis C, and to the presentation made at the European Parliament on Hepatitis B and C by The European Liver Patients Association (ELPA) and the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) in March 2009. It complements work currently undertaken by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Hepatitis B and C and will support also, through its emphasis on public policy, EASL’s work in Europe.

Contact details
For more information on attending the event and to arrange interviews, journalists should contact our press office:

Isabelle Scali+44 207 331 2324

[email protected] 

About the Partnership
Leading European scientists, professors, public health experts and patient advocates have joined in a Steering Group responsible for the management and delivery of the Hepatitis B and C Conference and its associated programme.

The Co-Chairs of the Steering Group are as follow:

Prof. Angelos Hatzakis Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive MedicineDirector, Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology & Medical Statistics

Athens University Medical School

Nadine Piorkowsky
President, European Liver Patients Association

Prof. Massimo ColomboChairman, 1st Division of GastroenterologyFondazione IRCCS Maggiore Hospital Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina Elena

University of Milan

For  more details on the conference and the full list of members of the Steering Group visit:  http://www.hepsummit2010.org/

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

References:
[i] WHO Europe Region. Hepatitis Fact and Figures.http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/diseases-and-conditions/hepatitis/facts-and-figures. Accessed 20.08.10
[ii] Hepatitis. Net Doctor. Available at http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/hepatitis.htm. Accessed 19.03.10
[iii] Hepatitis. NHS Choices. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hepatitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed 19.03.10
[iv] Piorkowsky N Y. Europe’s hepatitis challenge:defusing the “viral timebomb”.Journal of Hepatology 51 (2009) 1068-1073.
[v] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. ‘Hepatitis B and C World Hepatitis Day 2010. ECDC Info Sheet. http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/Documents/1005_info_sheet_world_hepatitis_day.pdf.Accessed 12.07.10