How the WHO hepatitis strategy measures up in the field
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 296 million people globally live with hepatitis B, with most unaware of their infection. Africa is the worst impacted region for hepatitis B with a prevalence of 7.5 percent compared to 0.5 percent in the Americas. Hepatitis C impacts an estimated 58 million people across the globe. Again, Africa is the worst-impacted region with a prevalence of 0.8 percent while the Americas see a prevalence of 0.5 percent.
Hepatitis C is a curable disease with patients prescribed an eight-to-12-week oral therapy regimen with cure rates exceeding 95%. Prognosis is not as promising for hepatitis B patients, but there are antiviral drugs available to help combat the virus and limit liver damage. There is hope among researchers and drug developers that hepatitis C treatment innovations can be leveraged to find a cure for hepatitis B. Despite the availability of treatment options to manage hepatitis B and cure hepatitis C, people across the globe are dying from both diseases.
Hepatitis B and C tend to have a higher prevalence among young people, people who inject drugs, people experiencing homelessness, incarcerated individuals, and migrants. Indeed, one of the main barriers to treating these diseases is that a high proportion of patients are part of marginalized groups that are difficult to reach through traditional healthcare systems. This may be due to lack of access or problems preventing patients from visiting doctors such as mistrust of healthcare systems or mental health issues.
In June 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new strategy for ending the hepatitis B and C epidemics. The strategy focuses on five core areas: delivering high-quality, evidence-based, people-centered services; optimizing systems, sectors, and partnerships for impact; generating and using data to drive decisions for action; engaging empowered communities and civil society; and fostering innovations for impact.
Dr. Anthony Martinez (Tony), a member of the International Hepatitis Education Program (IHEP), has worked in this field for 18 years. He is currently the Medical Director of Hepatology at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, and has dedicated his career to caring for patients with addiction disorders. Tony reveals details about his novel colocalization methods and his views on the WHO strategy and how it aligns with what’s realistically possible from the patient and healthcare providers’ perspectives, as well as what pharma companies can do to help.