Hepatitis C treatment changing Islanders’ lives
Tyler Caissie is one of more than 100 Islanders who no longer have hepatitis C thanks to a drug treatment program made available two years ago.
Prince Edward Island, in February 2015, became the first province in Canada to offer a management and treatment strategy for the life-threatening liver disease. Caissie began the treatment last November, and in April he tested negative.
“Ty has always lived with some discomfort due to other health conditions, the hepatitis C added to it. I can’t imagine how much more suffering he would have endured had we not had access to the hepatitis C treatment,” said Linda Gallant, Caissie’s legal guardian and sister-in-law, explaining that he acquired hepatitis C from a blood transfusion decades ago . “When I look at Ty my heart is lighter just knowing this is one less thing for him to endure – it has been incredible how the program has improved his quality of life.”
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is acquired through contact with infected blood. It is estimated that approximately 250,000 Canadians have chronic hepatitis C infection, of which approximately 550 Islanders are suspected to be infected.
There are six viral genotypes, with type 1 being the most common. Prince Edward Island’s available treatment can cure genotype 1, which is carried by approximately 65 to 70 per cent of Islanders diagnosed with the disease. This fall, Health PEI will be adding medications to the drug program that can treat every hepatitis C genotype.
“If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious complications such as liver failure and liver cancer,” says family physician Dr. George Carruthers. “Advancements in treatment therapies are highly effective, with cure rates over 95 per cent. Investments in drug programs, like the one we have here on PEI for hepatitis C, have provided us with access to affordable lifesaving and life-changing treatments for our patients. As a physician, there is nothing more rewarding.”
The hepatitis C treatment costs range from $45,000 to over $100,000 per patient, depending on the drug and disease progression. Government’s balanced 2017-18 operating budget includes approximately $1.6 million for the Hepatitis C Drug Program.
Under the current 10-year hepatitis C management and treatment strategy, Health PEI expects to effectively eliminate the presence of the virus within the province by 2025.
For more information about Health PEI’s drug programs, including the hepatitis drug program, visit Drug Programs.
• Hepatitis C is a serious, communicable disease that is spread through direct contact with the blood of a person living with the virus.
• Symptoms may include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain and joint pain. In some people, it can cause liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.
• Once someone is successfully treated and cured of hepatitis C infection, they are no longer able to pass the disease to others.
• Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.
Senior Communications Officer
Health and Wellness