Hepatitis C symposium highlights need for national action plan
TORONTO, Oct. 25, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, international researchers will
present a compelling case for government action on hepatitis C. The
disease can now effectively be screened, diagnosed, treated and often
cured. Unfortunately, progress has hit a critical moment; in order to
prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths and to avoid soaring acute care
costs, Canada needs a national action plan to identify, treat and cure
more patients with hepatitis C.
"We have the knowledge, the diagnostic tests and an ever-improving crop
of therapies that we can use to treat patients," says Dr. Morris
Sherman, chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. "However, our
ability to help people is hampered by our lack of resources. We have to
find innovative and affordable ways to bring advancements to patients;
otherwise we will waste the efforts of researchers in Canada and around
During Hepatitis C Virus: From Discovery to Cure, a symposium jointly presented by the Gairdner Foundation and the Canadian Liver
Foundation, Dr. Harvey Alter and Dr. Daniel Bradley, both winners of
the prestigious 2013 Canada Gairdner International Award, will recount their ground-breaking work in isolating and identifying
the hepatitis C virus. This research led to the development of the
first screening tests for the virus.
Leading Canadian and American specialists will join Dr. Alter and Dr.
Bradley, highlighting the ongoing challenges in measuring the current
and future burden of hepatitis C and in overcoming the social,
financial and administrative barriers standing between patients and the
care they need.
"It's incredible how far we've come and how much we've learned in the
last 20 years," says Dr. Gary Levy, former director of the Multi-Organ
Transplant Program at the University Health Network in Toronto and one
of the organizers of the symposium. "Hepatitis C is the leading cause
of liver transplantation in this country, but with advances in
treatment it doesn't have to be. Transplants are, and always should be,
a last resort, but we are often left with no choice because patients
already have advanced forms of the disease by the time they are
diagnosed. We should be using what we know to identify patients and
intervene long beforehand."
At Toronto General Hospital, which has the largest transplant program in
the country, about 35 per cent of liver transplants performed each year
are for patients living with hepatitis C.
Sergeant Lance Gibson was diagnosed with hepatitis C in January 2009 and
discovered he had been living with the virus for 28 years after
receiving blood products as a teenager. While in the process of being
released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), his medical examination
revealed that he had the disease. As a result, he had to turn down a
lucrative civilian position and stay in the CAF for treatment. He
received a liver transplant in May 2012.
"While I'm grateful to the donor and the doctors who saved my life, I
don't think that liver transplants should be the answer," says Lance.
"If doctors were routinely testing for hepatitis C, mine might have
been identified much earlier and I might have had more options for
Canada needs a national action plan for hepatitis C
Earlier this year, the Canadian Liver Foundation's report - Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making - highlighted the gaps in knowledge, care and resources for all forms
of liver disease. For hepatitis C, the report called for widespread
screening of adults born between 1945 and 1975. This recommendation was
supported by Canadian specialists in a recently published Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) article1. The report also recommended changes to how hepatitis care is funded
and managed as well as how patients qualify for treatment
"We estimate that only two per cent of the more than 300,000 Canadians
living with hepatitis C have undergone treatment," says Dr. Sherman.
"We recognize the financial implications of diagnosing and treating
each Canadian with the disease, but if we don't figure out a strategy
now, we will end up spending even more in acute care costs or resorting
to transplants to save the lives of patients that could have otherwise
About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned
about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the CLF was the first
organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and
education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all
liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives
to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of
liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to
individuals affected by liver disease.
B-roll is available for download here.
Canadian Liver Foundation's Report, Liver Disease: A Crisis in the Making can be accessed here.
Canadian Liver Foundation's Position Statement on Hepatitis C Testing
can be accessed here.
1 Canadian Medical Association Journal. A Canadian screening program for hepatitis C: Is now the time? H. Shah, J. Heathcote, J. Feld http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2013/09/30/cmaj.121872.extract
SOURCE: Canadian Liver Foundation
For further information:
To arrange an interview, please contact:
Canadian Liver Foundation
416-491-3353 ext. 4923
(416) 849-8938 (x5362)