Patients present the first National Strategy against Hepatitis C in Romania – ELPA – European Liver Patients Association

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2013-04-05 08:24

Bucharest, March 28th 2013 – The Liver Patients Association (APAH-RO) and the National Association for Patients Protection (ANPP), supported by ELPA (Europea Liver Patients Association) launched „The White Paper of Hepatitis C in Romania – Issues, challenges and solutions 2013 – 2018”. This is the first official document by which the civil society suggests a public policy for fighting against Hepatitis C in Romania.

„More and more associations are currently playing a big part in what I have tried to promote during my previous time as Minister of Health as well, that is the collaboration between associations and authorities in order to make a decision. At Ministry of Health top level we have decided to sign protocols that consolidate an institutional relationship between authorities and patients associations, in order to have the message spread to all citizens. Indeed Romania has a problem with Hepatitis C, just as much as it has other problems. By becoming aware that this problem exists, we can then find a solution, together. Today’s meeting is a step towards identifying the priorities we face and meet patients’ needs” Eugen Nicolăescu, Health Minister said.

The White Paper of Hepatitis C in Romania is a concrete step within the action plan against Hepatitis C in Romania, which health care specialists and representatives of patients associations have decided at the end of 2012 to implement.

„We think that this document, as a step within the fight against Hepatitis C, is a good start for designing a strategy that should comprise all forms of hepatitis, including hepatitis B and coinfection with B and D viruses. Considering the average prevalence in Romania, we support the access to the newest therapies. At the end of the day, the doctor needs to have the possiblity to choose and provide patients with the best therapeutic solutions” Marinela Debu, President of APAH said.

About Romania’s position on the map of Hepatitis C, Conf. Dr. Liana Gheorghe, gastroenterology specialised doctor at the Clinic Institute Fundeni stated: „Romania has the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C in Europe. We have treated so far a small amount of patients, which means that there is still a big pool of people with chronic infection. Hepatitis C is a disease we can cure if and only it is detected in an early stage of chronic hepatitis. And even if the investment in modern antiviral treatments can go as high as 30.000 EUR, these costs are still lower than cumulative costs of this disease, if left untreated – which can lead to cirrhosis, complications or transplant, that being synonim with hugely higher costs.”

In 2012 ELPA has launched the Euro Hepatitis Index, which is a monitoring and assessment tool of policies against Hepatitis B and C in the 27 countries of the EU and also in Croatia, Norway and Switzerland. In this classification, Romania is on the 25th place. European specialists mention a part of these policies as being relevant for Romania as well.

We identified a series of good practices across Europe which could help improve in a substantial manner the life of Hepatitis C patients, at the same time also saving financial resources. As such, we encourage all countries to develop their specific strategy against Hepatitis C, which should consider local needs. We are convinced that Romania will be an example of good practice for many countries if it will develop its own strategy to fight against Hepatitis C” Stanimir Hasurdjiev, Execuive Director of ELPA said.   

In the last 10 years, almost 40.000 patients in Romania received various antiviral treatment. Due to the high treatment adherence of Romanian patients, approx. half of these had SVR. The others, nonresponders or relapsers, keep facing Hepatitis C hoping for more efficient therapies.

For us, the introduction of the new molecules is a major priority in order to be able to save the lives of people who otherwise would stand no chance. We cannot be insensitive to people loswing their lives. Once there are solutions available, there is no reason not to introduce the triple therapy which already helps patients in other EU countries. This White Book of Hepatitis C in Romania provides comprehensive information for a cost-efficiency analysis of these new treatments and an economic analysis regarding these” said Vasile Barbu, President of ANPP.

The White Book of Hepatitis C in Romania – Issues, challenges and solutions 2013-2018

This document offers an overview of the delicate situation in Romania regarding the death rate associated with Hepatitis C, is an analysis of European practices in fighting against this conditon and provides solutions for a national strategy against Hepatitis C in Romania.

Romania is unfortunatelly on an unwanted ranking among EU states regarding the prevalence of this conditon. Recent epidemiologic research indicates that approximately 600.000 Romanian citizens are infected with HCV, of which 80%-90% have chronic HCV infection.[1]

Starting from current estimates, studies show that, in 2028, Romania might be confronted with approx. 260.000 cases of chronic hepatitis, 100.000 cases of compensated cirrhosis and 40.000 of uncompensated cirrhosis. High morbidity numbers could put a huge pressure on the health insurance system for caring about patients with advanced conditions.

Through this White Paper of Hepatitis C, The Liver Patients’ Association in Romania (APAH-RO) and the National Association for Patients Protection (ANPP), supported by ELPA, bring forward to public authorities a partnership for jointly elaborating and implementing a National Strategy Against Hepatitis C. This is a cutting-edge approach and mode of action for our country, that may become a good practice model also for other Romanian health projects.

A commited and well designed national strategy can help identify and gradate the main issues to be addressed, coordinate all those involved and establish standard action and information management criteria. A national strategy created the proper premises for all bodies and authorities responsible for fighting Hepatitis C to act in the same key on a national level, but also within local communites.

The associations who helped draft this document suggested that the national strategy should include three main pillars: prevention, screening and treatment of Hepatitis C patients.

Courtesy of Camelia Vlad