Research

Catalonia Announces Commitment to Hepatitis C Elimination by 2030

The number of patients with hepatitis C being treated in Catalonia is higher than the national average, but underdiagnosis continues to be a problem

22.09.2017

Catalonia is committed to the goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030. The decision was announced today in Barcelona by the Secretary for Public Health, Joan Guix, during his opening remarks at the symposium “Public Health Policy on Hepatitis C in Catalonia”The event was organised by the Catalan Department of Health and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) with the support of Gilead.The symposium was attended by over 100 people, including health professionals, researchers and representatives of patient’s associations. The objectives were to review the actions taken in Catalonia in recent years, to identify and discuss the obstacles that must be overcome to achieve the goal of elimination, and to define future lines of action.

Joan Colom, acting director of the Programme for Prevention, Control and Patient Care: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Viral Hepatitis, approved on 3 August this year, presented the key strategic lines of action of the new Plan for the Prevention and Control of Hepatitis C in Catalonia: “Since we have no vaccine at this time, and bearing in mind that many cases of hepatitis C go undiagnosed, prevention and control must be priority lines of action” was a key point in his message.

Jeffrey Lazarus, head of the Health Systems Research Group at ISGlobal, referred to the World Health Organisation’s global strategy, which calls for the implementation of evidence-based plans and strategies to achieve the goal of eliminating hepatitis C,and stressed the fact that “this important public health goal can only be achieved with political will”.He went on to make the point that “Catalonia is in a privileged position because, unlike most European countries, it already has a specific plan in place for preventing and controlling viral hepatitis.”

The introduction of the new direct-acting antivirals for treating hepatitis C has made it possible to cure over 95% of all patients with the disease. In Catalonia, the number of patients treated per million inhabitants is higher than the national average for Spain, a statistic that demonstrates the commitment of the Catalan authorities to the fight against this disease. In May 2017, the number of people treated rose to 14,255. The cost of treatment over the last two years has been approximately €256.5 million.

According to all the experts, underdiagnosis continues to be the main obstacle to achieving the goal of elimination. The fact that infection with hepatitis C does not necessarily give rise to obvious signs and symptoms makes diagnosis very difficult and represents an obstacle to prevention and early detection.

Catalonia does not have a complete register of patients diagnosed with hepatitis C, but the seroprevalence study coordinated by Dr Sabela Lens of the Liver Unit in Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic estimates that around 1% of the population have antibodies to the hepatitis C virus.