NHS England and Gilead Sciences final push to eradicate hepatitis C with extended partnership

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Hepatitis c Gilead NHS Partnership Liver disease cirrhosis

In a bid to combat hepatitis C, Gilead Sciences Ltd. has announced the extension of its collaboration with NHS England.

This partnership aims to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025, aligning with global efforts to eradicate the virus and improve public health outcomes.

Since its inception in 2019, the Strategic Procurement agreement between Gilead, NHS England, and various stakeholders has made significant strides in treating and curing hepatitis C. Over 84,000 individuals have benefited from this initiative, marking a substantial step towards achieving the ambitious goal of virus eradication.

"Through this partnership, we have been able to transform healthcare for communities that face barriers to treatment," said Rachel Halford, CEO of The Hepatitis C Trust. "Now people who experience homelessness, addiction, or have contact with the criminal justice system have better access to screening and treatment."

Julian Cole, country medical director at Gilead UK & Ireland, echoed Halford's sentiments, expressing pride in the partnership's accomplishments. "We are very proud to be extending our commitment to this innovative partnership, which has already achieved considerable success," said Cole. "The extension of this initiative with NHS England is a critical part of our leadership in liver disease."

Hepatitis C, a virus transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, poses a significant public health challenge. If left untreated, it can lead to severe liver damage, including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. However, with a cure rate of 97%, timely treatment can effectively eliminate the virus and prevent life-threatening complications.

Continued hepatitis C testing

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, emphasized the importance of continued testing and treatment efforts.

He said: “An extension of our landmark commercial deal is helping us reach those most at risk as we begin our final push to wipe out the virus and find and cure any remaining cases.

“We urge anyone who could be living with hepatitis C to get checked for peace of mind.”

Gilead's initiatives have extended beyond treatment provision, supporting micro-elimination efforts in over 40 prisons and 47 drug treatment services across England. These efforts have resulted in the treatment of more than 14,000 individuals, contributing significantly to the overall progress towards hepatitis C elimination.

As part of the extended partnership, Gilead says it remains committed to supporting drug treatment services and prisons, ensuring access to treatment for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Updated report on hepatitis C

In March 2024, the UK government released an updated report on hepatitis C in England, marking a crucial step in the final push towards eliminating HCV as a public health threat. As part of its strategic priority to combat infectious diseases, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has prioritized efforts to mitigate the harmful impact of HCV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), and HIV on public health.

The report highlights significant progress made in England towards the WHO elimination targets for HCV, with data analyzed up to the end of 2022. Encouraging trends include a notable decrease in chronic HCV prevalence, the implementation of comprehensive testing initiatives, and a reduction in HCV-related mortality rates.

The authors state: “Over the period from 2015 to 2022, there has been a remarkable 51.6% decrease in the number of individuals living with chronic HCV infection in England, now estimated at 62,600. This substantial decline can be attributed to improved testing strategies and increased access to treatment, particularly with the advent of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). The expanded availability of testing and treatment options has led to a notable reduction in HCV-related mortality, with mortality rates now at 0.44 per 100,000 population, marking the lowest rate recorded in the past decade.”

The findings of the report underscore the effectiveness of concerted efforts to combat HCV in England, highlighting the importance of continued investment in testing, treatment, and prevention strategies. As the UK remains committed to achieving the WHO's elimination targets, ongoing collaboration and innovative approaches will be key in realizing the ultimate goal of eliminating HCV as a public health threat.

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