The Canadian Liver Foundation is calling upon the Ontario government for greater screening of Hepatitis B and C as well as more accessible treatments for Ontarians.
It takes about 2-20 years for these diseases to cause cirrhosis or liver cancer. There are few symptoms until they reach the advanced and potentially fatal stage.
The problems as pointed out by the Canadian Liver Foundation include:
- Simple blood tests can identify the hepatitis B and C viruses and yet these tests are not a standard part of annual physicals.
- Effective treatments also exist for both chronic hepatitis B and C but they are not always accessible to those who need them.
- The recent Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) study ranks hepatitis B and C in the top five most burdensome infectious diseases.
- That is, hepatitis B and C are major contributors to morbidity and mortality in Ontario.
- “These diseases have not been a priority for our government despite the major toll they take on our population. The tragedy is that the power to reduce this human cost is within the grasp of government but they have yet to recognize it,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a hepatologist at Toronto General Hospital.
- About one third of Ontarians with viral hepatitis do not realize that they have it.
- Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer – a form of cancer that is on the rise in Ontario.
- “Restrictions on funding for treatment exist in most provinces and in Ontario, those restrictions are so tight that most patients who need treatment cannot get reimbursement through the government,” says Dr. Morris Sherman.
- Without access to affordable and effective treatments, hepatitis B will continue to contribute to mortality in this province
Dr. Sherman of the Canadian Liver Foundation gives the following solutions to the above problems:
- If diagnosed at an early stage however, hepatitis B and even liver cancer can be treated effectively.
- There are excellent treatments available for hepatitis B that will prevent most of the potentially fatal complications of this disease.
- Hepatitis C has seen dramatic steps forward in treatment with more on the way. Improved treatment for hepatitis C is just a few years away: more funding for research is required.
- Make treatments available to patients regardless of their financial resources.
- “We call upon the government to act now to make appropriate treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C available to all those who need it to mitigate the effects of these diseases. If this study is repeated in the future, we do not want to see hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the top 10.”
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