since 2015 will be implemented ‘Strategic Plan to Confront Hepatitis C’, It was achieved cure the disease in 95 percent of cases. A frame that places Spain at the forefront in the race to eradicate the disease by 2030, as established by the WHO target. For this, experts bet on screening by age – those born between 1950 and 1980 – through a blood test that detects the presence of antibodies like the active virus and is performed at least once in a lifetime.
This is how he explains Manuel Romero, head of the Digestive System Section at the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital: “We have patients lost in the emergency, also in primary care or who are outside the system. It is more difficult for all these people to find them and our great challenge is to identify them, because today a patient found is a patient treated and cured”.
This is one of the main conclusions reached by experts at the meeting organized by Gilead Sciences, ‘Workshop on viral hepatitis: current situation and complete and opportunistic diagnosis’.
“You have to find patients who are outside the system and lost, often looking among vulnerable populations”
Manuel Romerohead of the Digestive System Section at the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital
In this regard, José Luis Calleja, president of the Spanish Association of Liver Studies (AEEH)indicates that “in 2015, hepatitis C was the leading cause of cancer, cirrhosis, liver transplantation… The advent of treatments for this virus has produced an unparalleled transformation in health.. He not only allowed patients to be healed, but Generated significant savings for the health system by reducing transplants, liver complications, etc.”.
Undeniable savings for the SNS
Despite the path travelled, there are more than 76,500 people with HCV in the general population, of whom 22,500 have active HCV infection and have not been diagnosed. For this, it is essential to take advantage of all opportunities for diagnosing patients, investing in initiatives aimed at improving their prevention, early detection, treatment and comprehensive management.
“With a simple blood test, two thirds of those infected could be detected, without creating stigma or investigating the causes, avoiding the risk of contagion”
Jose Luis CallejaPresident of the Spanish Association of Liver Studies (AEEH)
Treatments are the key. A study of the years 2015-2019 in Spain shows that Gilead’s DAA treatments reduced mortality from liver causes by 82%; liver complications (89% decompensated cirrhosis, 77% hepatocellular carcinomas, and 84% liver transplants), as well as the cost associated with managing these complications: savings of 274 million euros for the SNS.
The essential collaboration of all actors
The president of AEEH recalled that there are six Regional Hepatitis C Elimination Plans in Spain with different scope and focus, but with the common goal of diagnosing new cases”take advantage of patient contact opportunities on the SNS, optimizing screening and diagnostic processes through automation and IT tools; promoting the approach in vulnerable populations or with greater risk factors”. Just as Cantabria and Galicia have taken the lead in this regard, Calleja adds: “The Ministry of Health must make a firm commitment to age screening now”.
“Screening for risk factors is not enough because sometimes patients do not recognize them, since it is an asymptomatic disease”
Javier Crespo, head of the digestive service at the Marqués de Valdecilla Hospital
In this regard, Javier Crespo, head of the digestive service at the Marqués de Valdecilla Hospitalremembered that HCV elimination requires taking advantage of all diagnostic opportunities, such as age screening or in emergency departments and CP or where rapid and comprehensive diagnosis of chronic viral hepatitis can be achieved thanks to a single analytical extraction and promote access to effective treatment. “If any virus is suspected (HCV, HBV, HDV or HIV) it is necessary to test all others. This way, we would leverage diagnostics in a single query and a single extractionwhich would result in greater efficiency and better results”, he points out.
Gilead’s firm commitment to viral hepatitis
During the presentation, Marta Velazquez, Director of Gilead’s Liver Diseases Business Unithighlights the company’s commitment to HCV, working with all parties involved towards its complete elimination.
In 2023, pharmaceutical company celebrates two decades of innovation in viral hepatitis since in 2003 it started its journey with the first treatment for HBV. What is more, since 2014 it has a portfolio of antiviral treatments to cure hepatitis C, and more than 4 million people worldwide have received these treatments, 100,000 of them in Spain.
“We need a multidisciplinary work and more ambitious regional plans so that no patient is left behind”
Marta VelazquezDirector of Gilead’s Liver Diseases Business Unit
Aware of the need to continue collaborating with public administrations, scientific societies and health associations to move forward, Velázquez points out that “It is a task of weaving agreements and collaborations with all the parties involved, scientific societies, patients and health professionals.”.
In Spain, Gilead has developed a strategy with which it supports innovative projects both in the hospital and in different health centers, with the aim of continuing to diagnose and refer all infected patients. They highlight the Gilead Scholarships to the Hepatitis C Microelimination projects that, together with the AEEH; any detect-Ca project in collaboration with Socidrogalcohol.