Hepatitis C to be ELIMINATED by 2025: 70,000 already cured as NHS hails wonder drugs

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said the NHS is “leading the world”
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said the NHS is “leading the world”

A five-year contract worth almost £1 billion to buy antiviral drugs for patients has seen deaths from Hepatitis C fall by 35 per cent

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Hepatitis C is expected to be eliminated in England by 2025 thanks to a rollout of antiviral drugs and a new campaign to find and help people at risk, health chiefs have said.

It comes after a five-year contract worth almost £1 billion to buy antiviral drugs for patients has seen deaths from Hepatitis C – including liver disease and cancer – fall by 35 per cent. The World Health Organisation had set a target of 10 per cent.

NHS England said the measures are helping to dramatically cut deaths five years ahead of global targets.
NHS England said the measures are helping to dramatically cut deaths five years ahead of global targets.

NHS England said the measures are helping to dramatically cut deaths five years ahead of global targets.

Dedicated “Find And Treat” programmes have also helped the NHS drive down Hepatitis C cases among vulnerable communities such as the homeless who may suffer worse outcomes than the general population as they do not have regular contact with health services.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said the NHS is “leading the world” in the drive to save lives and eliminate Hepatitis C while also tackling a “significant” health inequality.

He said: “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.”

Someone testing for Hepatitis C
Someone testing for Hepatitis C

The project on Hepatitis C has helped find and cure 70,000 people of the potentially fatal disease and reduced the number of people seeking liver transplants due to Hepatitis C, NHS England said.

Within six years, the number of people seeking liver transplants due to the virus fell by two-thirds and the number of annual registrations for a liver transplant in patients with Hepatitis C-related diseases dropped from fewer than 140 per year to fewer than 50 per year in 2020.

The project has also provided 80 per cent of its treatments to people from communities in the poorest half of the population.

Since the rollout of an NHS plan to treat children for Hepatitis C last year, more than 100 children received infection-curing antivirals, with 90 per cent of treatments given to the 40 per cent poorest children.

An NHS screening programme launched in September is enabling thousands of people unknowingly living with Hepatitis C to get a diagnosis and treatment sooner by searching health records for key risk factors, such as historic blood transfusions or those with HIV.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which, left untreated, can cause liver cancer and liver failure.

It usually displays no symptoms until the virus causes enough damage to bring on liver disease.

Symptoms may include fatigue and difficulty concentrating and the virus is also linked to cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, kidney disease and musculoskeletal pain.

Effective antiviral drugs can cure more than 95 per cent of people with minimal side effects , which means it can be eliminated.