New York State Plans to Eliminate Hepatitis C

Unlike hepatitis A and B there is not a vaccine to prevent hepatitis C
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(Precision Vaccinations)

The Governor of New York announced the nation's first state-level strategy to end the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) outbreak in New York State.

By aligning activities with the 2016-2020 Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan, the New York State Department of Health and others will maximize opportunities to eliminate new hepatitis A, B and C infections.

Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is not a vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.

The development of an effective vaccine has been complicated by the diversity of HCV genotypes, and complexities in HCV immunological responses reported in a recent study. 

This new effort by New York aims to stop the Hepatitis C virus by expanding access to programs that promote prevention, screenings and treatment services.

Various studies show that over 90 percent of people who are treated can be cured of HCV.

Over just 5 years, the number of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections has nearly doubled, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The increase is driven by people who inject drugs, the CDC says.

The majority of HCV cases are still diagnosed in baby boomers, who are 6 times more likely to be infected with HCV.

“While a vaccine for preventing Hepatitis C infection should greatly reduce the number of new cases, testing unidentified infected patients so they may seek treatment is an area where the community pharmacy can pursue a more active role right now,” said, Lauren A. Ragan, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist for Brookshires Grocery Company.

“Currently, there are only a few pharmacy chains offering point-of-care testing that includes Hepatitis C.  If you have Hepatitis C questions, ask your local pharmacist."

New direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs can prevent the need for a liver transplant, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer or death. There are 4 classes of direct-acting antivirals that combine in different ways to make up the different hepatitis C DAA treatments.

However, DAA treatment is not for everyone and a specialist should be consulted when determining if someone should get treated.

Hepatitis C virus causes liver disease and it is found in the blood of persons who are infected. Those individuals with chronic infection are at risk for developing chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

HCV is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person. In 2015, 2,436 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported from 40 states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, many of those with chronic hepatitis C do not even know they are infected.

An estimated 3.5 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.

Additionally, NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to increase funding for HCV prevention, testing and treatment programs, such as education, patient navigation, and HCV prevention programs in primary care and other settings.

Newly published research suggests that expanding one-time Hepatitis C virus testing to everyone over 18 years of age would be cost-effective, and improve clinical outcomes.

This research says expanding HCV testing would deliver the lowest cost per quality-adjusted life year, at $28,000.

The current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a one-time HCV test for persons born between 1945-1965, with additional testing for ‘high-risk’ persons.

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "By providing better testing, increased access to screenings and treatment, collaboration with healthcare providers and the same aggressive approach, we are going to end the Hepatitis C epidemic."

Governor Cuomo’s announcements build on the success of recent reductions in HIV diagnoses in New York to record lows and coincide with the release of the "Ending the Epidemic" progress report, which highlights New York efforts to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2020.

One in five persons with HIV is co-infected with HCV. HCV-related deaths have exceeded HIV-related deaths in New York state since 2007, outside of New York City.