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Hep C Update

Hep C: An Important Canadian Story

August 14th, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Hepatitis C is a silent killer (people can have it for decades without any symptoms) and a story that is not commonly known in Canada. Yet this virus affects many people, highlights inequities in our health and social systems and is part of an important Canadian story.

Canada has a history of being on the forefront of addressing hepatitis C, starting with Dr. Michael Houghton, an internationally recognized microbiologist at the University of Alberta, who was the first to co-discover hepatitis C and continues to work with his team to create a vaccine for the virus.

Hepatitis C incidence is highest amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable Canadians: people who use injection drugs, Indigenous peoples and people in prisons.

Despite Canada’s significant role in discovering the virus, the sad fact is that more than half of Canadians who have hepatitis C do not know that they have it, and even less people have access to the lifesaving medications, which are now more widely available. Approximately 330,000 Canadians are estimated to have hepatitis C, but limited awareness and narrow testing guidelines have meant that most Canadians do not get tested for hepatitis C, even though they may benefit from treatment.

In addition to limited testing, the curious and maddening fact is that most Canadians with hepatitis C need to get more sick from the virus before they can access the treatments. Liver injury (called fibrosis) gets worse the longer a patient has hep C, and historically access to treatment was limited to those with particularly severe fibrosis because of the high cost of the medications. This situation is, thankfully, improving somewhat.

Last February, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance negotiated an agreement with several pharmaceutical companies to lower prices for six hepatitis C medications, which will make it easier for those with hep C to qualify for drug access. A number of provinces have announced changes in their provincial criteria and access is improving. In some provinces, however, access to medications is still somewhat restricted.

The story of hepatitis C also highlights broader social inequities and gaps in our health-care system. Hepatitis C incidence is highest amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable Canadians: people who use injection drugs, Indigenous peoples and people in prisons. Thirty-five per cent of the infections in Canada are among newcomers who come from high prevalence countries and have been exposed to hep C through the medical system. Yet these populations face the biggest barriers in accessing health-care services.

Prevention methods also remain somewhat inaccessible to populations who need them the most. In Canada, hepatitis C is primarily spread through injection drug use and the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to provide new needles and comprehensive harm reduction programming to individuals who inject drugs. Needle and syringe programs have proven effective at reducing transmission, yet such programs are not available in prisons, where the prevalence of hepatitis C and of drugs use is extremely high. Needle and syringe programs are also very limited in rural and remote areas, as well as on reserves.

Canada could be poised to become a leader in its global response to hepatitis C. Last year, Canada endorsed the World Health Organization’s Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021, committing us to the goals of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 and, specifically, to achieving a domestic diagnoses rate of 90 per cent, with 80 per cent of people living with hepatitis C being treated by 2030.

Hepatitis C could be — should be — a proud Canadian success story, building on the stellar work of Michael Houghton, our strong Canadian medical expertise, and the leadership coming from communities most impacted by hepatitis C. We need all Canadians to encourage our federal and provincial health departments to take action, ensuring medical access and health care for all.

Laurie Edmiston, executive director
CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information

Hep C: An Important Canadian Story

August 4th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hepatitis C is a silent killer (people can have it for decades without any symptoms) and a story that is not commonly known in Canada. Yet this virus affects many people, highlights inequities in our health and social systems and is part of an important Canadian story.

Canada has a history of being on the forefront of addressing hepatitis C, starting with Dr. Michael Houghton, an internationally recognized microbiologist at the University of Alberta, who was the first to co-discover hepatitis C and continues to work with his team to create a vaccine for the virus.

Hepatitis C incidence is highest amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable Canadians: people who use injection drugs, Indigenous peoples and people in prisons.

Despite Canada’s significant role in discovering the virus, the sad fact is that more than half of Canadians who have hepatitis C do not know that they have it, and even less people have access to the lifesaving medications, which are now more widely available. Approximately 330,000 Canadians are estimated to have hepatitis C, but limited awareness and narrow testing guidelines have meant that most Canadians do not get tested for hepatitis C, even though they may benefit from treatment.

In addition to limited testing, the curious and maddening fact is that most Canadians with hepatitis C need to get more sick from the virus before they can access the treatments. Liver injury (called fibrosis) gets worse the longer a patient has hep C, and historically access to treatment was limited to those with particularly severe fibrosis because of the high cost of the medications. This situation is, thankfully, improving somewhat.

Last February, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance negotiated an agreement with several pharmaceutical companies to lower prices for six hepatitis C medications, which will make it easier for those with hep C to qualify for drug access. A number of provinces have announced changes in their provincial criteria and access is improving. In some provinces, however, access to medications is still somewhat restricted.

The story of hepatitis C also highlights broader social inequities and gaps in our health-care system. Hepatitis C incidence is highest amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable Canadians: people who use injection drugs, Indigenous peoples and people in prisons. Thirty-five per cent of the infections in Canada are among newcomers who come from high prevalence countries and have been exposed to hep C through the medical system. Yet these populations face the biggest barriers in accessing health-care services.

Prevention methods also remain somewhat inaccessible to populations who need them the most. In Canada, hepatitis C is primarily spread through injection drug use and the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to provide new needles and comprehensive harm reduction programming to individuals who inject drugs. Needle and syringe programs have proven effective at reducing transmission, yet such programs are not available in prisons, where the prevalence of hepatitis C and of drugs use is extremely high. Needle and syringe programs are also very limited in rural and remote areas, as well as on reserves.

Canada could be poised to become a leader in its global response to hepatitis C. Last year, Canada endorsed the World Health Organization’s Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021, committing us to the goals of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 and, specifically, to achieving a domestic diagnoses rate of 90 per cent, with 80 per cent of people living with hepatitis C being treated by 2030.

Hepatitis C could be — should be — a proud Canadian success story, building on the stellar work of Michael Houghton, our strong Canadian medical expertise, and the leadership coming from communities most impacted by hepatitis C. We need all Canadians to encourage our federal and provincial health departments to take action, ensuring medical access and health care for all.

Laurie Edmiston, executive director
CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information

Health Canada Warning: Direct-Acting Antivirals May Cause Hep B Reactivation

December 7th, 2016 at 1:51 pm

healthcanada

OTTAWA, Dec. 1, 2016 /CNW/ – A recent Health Canada safety review found that patients infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses who are being treated for hepatitis C with direct-acting antivirals may experience a reactivation of their hepatitis B. Hepatitis B reactivation is the return of an active hepatitis B infection, which can lead to serious complications such as liver failure.

As a result, Health Canada is working with manufacturers to strengthen the prescribing information for these drugs with a new warning about this risk.

Direct-acting antivirals are prescription medicines used to treat and, in most cases, cure chronic hepatitis C virus infections in adults. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C virus infections can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver cancer and death.

When Health Canada completed its safety review in October 2016 there were no Canadian cases of hepatitis B reactivation. However, 13 international cases were identified. In some cases, the symptoms reported were consistent with moderate to severe hepatitis B reactivation, with one case resulting in liver failure requiring a liver transplant.

Health Canada will continue to monitor and evaluate the risk of hepatitis B reactivation associated with the use of direct-acting antivirals. If new safety information is identified, Canadians will be updated, as required.

The direct-acting antivirals available in Canada are:

  • Daklinza (daclatasvir)
  • Epclusa (sofosbuvir, velpatasvir)
  • Galexos (simeprevir)
  • Harvoni (sofosbuvir, ledipasvir)
  • Holkira Pak (dasabuvir, paritaprevir, ombitasvir, ritonavir)
  • Sovaldi (sofosbuvir)
  • Sunvepra (asunaprevir)
  • Technivie (paritaprevir, ombitasvir, ritonavir)
  • Zepatier (grazoprevir, elbasvir)

 

What you should do:

  • Tell your health care professional if you currently have or have ever had hepatitis B, or if you have other liver problems (such as cirrhosis), before starting treatment with direct-acting antivirals.
  • Talk to your health care professional if you have questions or concerns about using direct-acting antivirals.
  • Do not stop taking direct-acting antivirals without talking to your health care professional.

Information for healthcare professionals:

  • Healthcare professionals should screen all patients for past or current hepatitis B infections before starting direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C.
  • Patients with past or current hepatitis B infections who are receiving direct-acting antiviral therapy should be monitored both during treatment and during post-treatment follow-up. Monitoring should include watching for clinical signs and reviewing laboratory findings related to hepatitis flare or hepatitis B reactivation.

Report health or safety concerns
To report a side effect to a health product to Health Canada:

  • Call toll-free at 1-866-234-2345
  • Visit Health Canada’s Web page on Adverse Reaction Reporting for information on how to report online, by mail or by fax.

Related links:

Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and product recalls using social media tools.

Également disponible en français

 

SOURCE Health Canada

Call to Action for Strategy to Eliminate Hep C

September 29th, 2016 at 12:03 pm

hepcpetition

To help raise political awareness for a strategy to eliminate hepatitis C Action Hepatitis Canada has started an official Parliamentary Petition. The petition requires 500 signatures. Members of Parliament will be presented with AHC’s request for a National Strategy in the House of Commons. To sign go to this link. 

Canada Reaffirms its Commitment to Battling Viral Hepatitis

June 16th, 2016 at 3:56 pm

philpot2

OTTAWA, June 16, 2016 – The Honourable Jane Philpott, Canada’s minister for health, reaffirmed today Canada’s commitment to participate in the global fight against viral hepatitis.

Speaking at a breakfast on Parliament Hill organized by the Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH), Philpott said to the health professionals, government officials, civil society representatives and hepatitis survivors in attendance,  “We are committed to do the work to end hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. We are working closely with provinces and territories to address the ongoing burden of viral hepatitis.”

Canada, along with 193 other Member States, recently adopted the Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. The goal – the elimination of hepatitis B and C by 2030 – signals the greatest ever global commitment on viral hepatitis.

The Parliamentary Breakfast also marked the launch of the World Hepatitis Day campaign in Canada.  WHD, celebrated annually on July 28, is dedicated to raising awareness about viral hepatitis and promoting prevention, and access to testing, treatment and care. Again this year, the Canadian campaign is spearheaded by CSIH and links some 65 organizations planning more than 100 events across the country. This year’s theme is: Know your status? Get tested. Know your options.

Quotes:

“Hepatitis is not just somebody else’s problem. Thousands of Canadians may be affected by the virus and not know it yet. We urge everyone to get informed and get tested.” Eva Slawecki, Executive Director, CSIH

“The adoption of the Global Strategy is a milestone in the fight against viral hepatitis. It is now up to every country that signed on, including Canada, to do what it takes to eliminate these diseases.” Dr. Curtis Cooper, Director of The Ottawa Hospital Regional Viral Hepatitis Program.

Facts:

  • Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by one of five hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis B and C may lead to liver failure, cancer, disability and death.
  • There are some 600,000 Canadians living with hepatitis, many of whom are unaware of their condition. Worldwide, more than 400 million people are infected, and 1.4 million die every year from the condition – more than HIV/AIDS or malaria.
  • For more information on the Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/wha69-28-may-2016/en/

CSIH: The Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH) brings the Canadian global health community together to better achieve a shared goal of improving health worldwide. www.csih.org