England will see 1,650 annual cases of hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease and cancer by 2035 if the current low levels of treatment are maintained, according to Public Health England (PHE).
Although around 160,000 people are infected with hepatitis C in England, just 3 per cent access treatment each year. However, the burden of healthcare costs associated with untreated hep C means that increasing this coverage to 100 per cent over the next 10-15 years would only mean a 31 per cent increase in spending, says PHE. The agency is calling for services to be made more easily accessible – including expansion into drug treatment, primary care and prison settings – as well as better monitoring and reporting of treatment outcomes.
‘While there would be a financial cost to rapidly increasing treatment rates, the increase is not as great as you might think because the costs of managing undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis C are so high,’ said PHE hepatitis expert Dr Helen Harris.
‘Currently, we are paying a very high price in terms of lives lost and burden placed on future healthcare resources.’
‘Hepatitis C is a curable disease and to have so few people being offered the chance to rid themselves of the virus is simply not acceptable,’ added Hepatitis C Trust chief executiveCharles Gore. ‘If more people are diagnosed and treated, we could rid
ourselves of this virus within the next 15 years, a unique opportunity. The alternative is ever more people dying entirely preventable deaths.’
Meanwhile, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the incidence of liver cancer rose by 70 per cent for men and 60 per cent for women between 2003 and 2012, making it the 18th most common cancer in England.
PHE study at www.journal-ofhepatology.eu Cancer registration statistics, England, 2012 at www.ons.gov.uk