John wrote this blog for AbbVie after chairing a London HCV elimination roundtable on World Hepatitis Day, hosted by AbbVie. You can read the original blog here.
It’s estimated that 43,500 people are living with the now curable blood borne virus in London – among the highest prevalence in England – with 40% failing to access treatment support.1Already, great work has been done to treat 2,500 people in the last year,2 but we still need to improve links to healthcare in local communities that can reach those most at risk.
Among those who inject drugs, or have previously injected, almost 50% have hepatitis C – a figure that sadly has remained mostly unchanged for the past 10 years.3 For over 50 years, we’ve been able to provide open access drug support services to thousands of people across London. We’re now working closely with The Hepatitis C Trust and other service providers, like Addaction and CGL, to deliver hepatitis C interventions within drug service settings across the UK.
Our ability to eliminate hepatitis C will ultimately be limited by our capacity to find and treat those who remain undiagnosed, and to help those who are diagnosed engage with treatment support. This can only be done if we have a local focus on the wider social issues that are impacting the lives of people most at risk.
Chairing a roundtable on World Hepatitis Day (28 July), I was able to address local healthcare professionals, and representatives from the London Assembly, Public Health England and the charity and voluntary sector, to agree on the following priorities for eliminating hepatitis C in London:
1. A pan-London approach: Put hepatitis C on the policy agenda to develop a joint plan for tackling the curable virus and become a leader in testing, treating and curing
2. Piggy back on existing successes: Seize the opportunity of screening programmes for HIV and tuberculosis to offer combined tests for blood-borne viruses
3. Raise awareness and reduce stigma: Develop culturally appropriate and sensitive disease awareness programmes to de-stigmatise the condition and alert people to new treatments that cure hepatitis C
4. Call for an end to rationing: Raise awareness among key decision makers that London is disproportionally impacted by rationing of treatment and push for changes to the contracting of medicines
5. Treat to prevent transmission: See treatment as prevention and build this into public health priorities
6. Flexible funding and flexible pathways: Offer testing and treatment in a way that is appropriate for patients and based on clinical need
These priorities will support our ability to work with NHS commissioners and London authorities to support government prevention and treatment targets for the elimination of hepatitis C by 2030.
As a charity, we are committed to innovating and campaigning for best practice and positive change in the drug and alcohol field. By working with government, health organisations and industry we can help prevent, test and treat hepatitis C when people come to us for drug and alcohol support. This is an important step in the right direction that allows more people to gain access to healthcare support out-of-hospital and in their community. It is with great optimism that we join London in a call to support the elimination of hepatitis C, once and for all.
 Public Health England, Hepatitis C: guidance, data and analysis. Hepatitis C: commissioning template for estimating disease prevalence, March 2014. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hepatitis-c-commissioning-template-for-estimating-disease-prevalence Accessed July 2017
 Harris, R. J. et al. 2016. New treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV): scope for preventing liver disease and HCV transmission in England. J Viral Hepat, 23: 631–643. doi:10.1111/jvh.12529. Available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jvh.12529/full Accessed July 2017
 Public Health England, Hepatitis C in the UK, July 2016. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565459/Hepatitis_C_in_the_UK_2016_report.pdf Accessed July 2017