PEI on track to be first province to eliminate hepatitis C
By making treatment easily available to the approximately 1,000 Islanders suffering from hepatitis C, Prince Edward Island is on track to be the first province in Canada to eliminate the hepatitis C virus (HCV) among its population.
To reach its goal to eliminate HCV by 2025, five years ahead of Canadian and global targets, the province recently started to provide patients with curative treatment at their first appointment instead of having to wait for blood test results and medication approval. That has resulted in a 50 per cent increase in the number of people starting treatment compared to the previous three months.
Since the province’s 10-year hepatitis C program was launched in 2015, 45 per cent of Islanders living with HCV have been treated.
“Sunday is World Hepatitis Day so it’s timely to recognize the outstanding progress we have made in treating, managing and eliminating hepatitis C,” said Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward. “Providing same-day treatment for first-time patients is a huge step forward for PEI, as we work to ensure Islanders have easy access to the hepatitis C treatment and follow-up care they need.”
During the past year, a team for the hepatitis C program has been set up with a provincial co-ordinator, registered nurse and clerk. The program staff also does community outreach to make direct contact with people infected or at risk of being infected with HCV.
“As a clinician and researcher working locally and nationally with HCV patients, it is exciting to see the progress being made and that Prince Edward Island has really stepped-up to be a national leader in hepatitis C elimination,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, HCV medical advisor to Health PEI. “Treating many people quickly is essential to HCV elimination and the PEI program promotes both easy and rapid care. Prevention, harm reduction programs, expanded hepatitis C testing and treatment are integral to hepatitis C elimination on the Island.”
Prince Edward Island is the first province to publicly fund a co-ordinated provincial program for HCV treatment and elimination.
“We are proud to be partnering with the Province of PEI in its efforts to cure the Island of hepatitis C,” said Stéphane Lassignardie, General Manager, AbbVie Canada. “Achieving elimination by 2025 is truly outstanding. A global mandate combined with highly effective and financially accessible treatments has alleviated many of the earlier hurdles and complexity in today’s health care systems. We now need to focus our efforts on partnerships that will lead to screening, linkage to care, and ultimately curing patients.”
To reduce barriers to care, Islanders can also self-refer to access hepatitis C testing and treatment by calling 902-569-7642.
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About Hepatitis C, Treatment and Prevention
Hepatitis C is a serious, communicable disease that is spread through direct contact with the blood of a person living with the virus. Symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain and joint pain. In some people, it can cause liver damage or liver cancer. Once someone is successfully treated and cured of hepatitis C infection, the disease cannot spread to others. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.
Curative treatment for all types of the hepatitis C virus is available to Islanders at no charge through the Hepatitis C Drug Program offered through Health PEI.
Current prevention efforts include the Provincial Needle Exchange Program and Opiate Replacement Therapy Programs which are harm reduction approaches to helping individuals living with addictions prevent the spread of the disease as a result of IV drug use.
World Hepatitis Day is July 28, a day set aside to raise awareness of the global burden of the disease and bring focus to the need for action. Thee World Health Organization (WHO) has set a target of 2030 for the elimination of hepatitis C worldwide.
AbbVie is a global, research and development-based biopharmaceutical company committed to developing innovative advanced therapies for some of the world’s most complex and critical conditions. The company’s mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to markedly improve treatments across four primary therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience. In more than 75 countries, AbbVie employees are working every day to advance health solutions for people around the world. For more information about AbbVie, visit www.abbvie.ca and www.abbvie.com. Follow @abbvieCanada and @abbvie on Twitter or view careers on our Facebook or LinkedIn page.