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Deaths from hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease have fallen by 11% in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to data from Public Health England (PHE).
This fall is ‘most likely’ due to increased use of new antiviral medications now available which have the potential to cure the condition in most cases and have fewer side effects than previously used medications.
The new data also shows there was still an average of 1,974 new end-stage liver disease and cancer diagnoses per year, with the rate remaining stable between 2011 to 2015.
In the UK, around 200,000 people have a long-term infection with hepatitis C virus.
Two years ago, the UK government committed to a joint ambition with 193 other countries to eliminate the disease as a public health threat by 2030. As well as testing and treatment, prevention through needle and syringe exchange services and opiate substitution therapies need to be sustained to achieve and maintain elimination.
Dr Sema Mandal, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE, said:
The fall in deaths from hepatitis C related advanced liver disease in the last year suggests that more people are accessing new, potentially curative treatments and shows we’re making positives steps towards reaching our overall goal of elimination of hepatitis C as a major public health threat.
“However, more needs to be done. We are urging anyone who has ever injected drugs, even once or a long time ago, had a tattoo or medical treatment overseas where proper hygiene procedures may not have been followed, or has had a blood transfusion before hepatitis C screening was in place, to get tested at their GP, community drug services or sexual health clinic. It could save your life.”
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