SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

WHO reveals first treatment guide for hepatitis C

The World Health Organization issued on Wednesday its first treatment guide for hepatitis C, which affects between 130 million and 150 million people worldwide and causes at least 350,000 deaths every year.

"The WHO recommendations are based on a thorough review of the best and latest scientific evidence," WHO Global Hepatitis Programme Leader Stefan Wiktor said. "The new guidance aims to help countries to improve treatment and care for hepatitis and thereby reduce deaths from liver cancer and cirrhosis."

WHO will work with countries to implement the guidelines and integrate the recommended practices into current healthcare systems.

"Hepatitis C treatment is currently unaffordable to most patients in need," WHO Essential Medicines and Health Products Department Senior Advisor Peter Beyer said. "The challenge now is to ensure that everyone who needs these drugs can access them. Experience has shown that a multi-pronged strategy is required to improve access to treatment, including creating demand for treatment. The development of WHO guidelines is a key step in this process."

WHO recommended nine steps for the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis including screening, mitigating liver damage, treatment and prevention.

"Many people remain unaware - sometimes for decades - that they are infected with hepatitis C," Andrew Ball, the senior advisor for Policy, Strategy and Equity for WHO's HIV/AIDS Department, said. "Today's launch highlights the need for more awareness and education on hepatitis for the general public. Greater awareness on the risks associated with hepatitis C should lead to a demand for services and expansion of laboratory capacity and clinical services so that more people can be tested, treated and cured."