World Hepatitis Day, which takes places every year on July 28, aims to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis. While annual costs stemming from the disease are massive, hepatitis also provides a successful innovation story, with some health experts even predicting hepatitis C will become a rare disease within the next two decades.
The costs resulting from hepatitis infections place large burdens on society each year. A report found that hepatitis C alone could cost the U.S. health care system $115 billion over the next 10 years. The report estimated that, in the absence of a cure for hepatitis C, more than 350,000 patients would be living with advanced stages of the disease – including 100,000 more with cirrhosis of the liver and 250,000 more patients with end stage liver disease – by 2025. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is the most common reason for a liver transplant in the United States.
Globally, the World Hepatitis Alliance estimates that 300 million people across the world are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Additionally, hepatitis is responsible for 1.34 million deaths each year, including two out of every three liver cancer deaths.
Fortunately, recent breakthroughs in treatment are providing cure rates upwards of 90 percent for patients with hepatitis C, which until the last several years had no vaccine and no cure. Since its discovery in 1989, the hepatitis C virus has been treatable only as a chronic disease, but these new breakthroughs are able to eliminate the disease entirely, dramatically reducing health care costs and improving patients’ quality of life.
It’s this kind of progress that has contributed to lower death rates from all types of infectious diseases including respiratory diseases, HIV/AIDS and meningitis, which collectively have decreased 19 percent since 1980.
Advances such as these exemplify the integral role that medicines play in preventing human and economic burden and relieving stress on the health care system.
We’re grateful to the thousands of biopharmaceutical researchers in America who each day work to find new treatments and cures for diseases like hepatitis. In the absence of effective treatments, we would be living in a far different world than we do today.