For Immediate Release: May 12, 2011
TFAH Statement on new HHS Action Plan to Prevent, Care and Treat Viral Hepatitis
Washington, D.C., May 12, 2011 - The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) applauds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for unveiling a new strategic approach to dealing with the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis today. This action plan will help the nation better identify millions of Americans who are living with chronic forms of hepatitis B and C and assure access to treatment for all who need it, and prevent even more Americans from becoming infected.
"Millions of Baby Boomers and others have hepatitis B or C and do not realize it. They have been facing the potential fate of developing serious, life-threatening liver diseases without ever knowing they were even infected," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "The plan calls for educating providers and communities, improving treatment, strengthening surveillance, reducing vaccine-preventable cases, protecting patients and healthcare workers, and curbing the spread through injection drugs. We hope the plan will receive the resources it needs to be fully and effectively implemented."
"This plan, if properly supported with sufficient resources, could help spare needless suffering and expensive medical costs - and since people develop these diseases as they age, this could result in particularly big savings for Medicare and Medicaid," added Levi.
- An estimated 65 to 75 percent of the five million Americans currently infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) do not even know they have the virus;
- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that 150,000 Americans could die from liver cancer or end-stage liver disease associated with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the next decade;
- The death rate from HCV is expected to triple in the next 10 to 20 years;
- An independent analysis found total medical costs for HCV patients could more than double over the next 20 years - from $30 to $80 billion per year;
- Liver cancer treatment can be more than $62,000 for the first year cost and the first-year cost of a liver transplant can be more than $267,000;
- Two-thirds of HCV cases are Baby Boomers - and if they are left untreated, it could lead to a major increase in upcoming Medicare spending;
- One in 10 Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are estimated to have a chronic HBV infection;
- An estimated 540,000 to 858,000 African Americans are estimated to have a chronic HCV infection;
- Approximately 800 to 1,000 infants in the United States are infected with HBV at birth each year; and
- At least 100,000 patients have been notified about potential exposure to HBV, HCV, and/or HIV while receiving health care since 1998.
The full report can be found on TFAH's website at: http://www.tfah.org/report/76/hepatitis-report.
Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. www.healthyamericans.org