England is set to be one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the threat of Hepatitis C, exceeding the World Health Organization target of 2030 by five years.
The progress comes after a pioneering NHS pharmaceutical deal worth almost £1bn to buy antiviral drugs for thousands of patients up and down the country. The deal has led to Hepatitis C deaths falling by 35%, which goes above and beyond WHO’s target of 10% by more than three-fold.
The NHS has also helped find and cure 70,000 people of Hepatitis C as well as reducing the number of people registering for a liver transplant due to Hepatitis-related diseases from more than 140 per year to less than 50 per year in 2020, with the figure expected to be even lower in 2022.
NHS England National Medical Director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “The NHS is leading the world in the drive to eliminate Hepatitis C and save thousands of lives, while tackling a significant health inequality in the process.
“Thanks to targeted screening and because the NHS has a proven track record of striking medicine agreements that give patients access to the latest drugs, we are on track to beat global targets and become the first country to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030 – which will be a landmark achievement.”
The progress also comes after the launch of a screening programme in September that indexes health records and evaluates key Hepatitis C risk factors to give tens of thousands of people potentially life-saving diagnoses.
Rachel Halford, CEO of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “We are delighted to be a part of this unique elimination deal and work alongside NHS England to find, test and treat people most at risk of contracting hepatitis C.
“Through our peer-led programmes of work, people who have had and recovered from hepatitis C have been empowered to lead the way and help save the lives of thousands of others by supporting them into treatment. No one needs to die today from hepatitis C; it’s now so easy to get tested, get treated, and get cured.
“The progress that has been made towards elimination is truly astounding. We now need a final concerted effort to make sure we reach all those that may be affected and reach elimination. Investment in a national campaign to improve public awareness of hepatitis C to reduce stigma and encourage people who may have been at risk to get tested is paramount.”