What is the cost of ignoring liver diseases? ELPA's "White Paper Project"
Viral hepatitis B and C affect millions of Europeans. However, very few European countries have a national strategy to prevent and control these debilitating diseases. The main reason why national governments shy away from the subject is that they are concerned about the cost of such programmes. ELPA believes this attitude is not only disastrous for patients, but also ignores the financial impact of ignoring the hepatitis epidemic. In the long term, we believe it will be cheaper to screen, prevent and treat for viral hepatitis than treating patients with advanced liver disease, as this also prevents the loss of lives and workforce.
Therefore, ELPA has just started the "White paper project – The socio-economic burden of hepatitis in Europe" and presentation of the "Hepatitis database". This project will look at the economical impact that viral hepatitis has accross Europe. The kick-off meeting for the White paper project on "The socio-economic burden of hepatitis in Europe" was held in Vienna on 24th February 2012. The participants of the meeting were members of the ELPA Steering Committee, representatives of pharmaceutical companies and representatives of EASL.
The white paper project on “The economic buden of hepatitis in Europe“ should produce a powerful advocacy tool for patient organizations which could show to political decision makers that early screening and prevention might actually help to save the EU money.
It is noteworthy to mention that many governments invest large sums of money for HIV screening and treatment, which is of course justified. But, considering the fact that HCV is curable and HIV is not, and HCV has a much higher prevalence than HIV which is usually 1% or less in most countries, we believe that it would be equally justified to spend the same amount of money for hepatitis prevention and treatment.
Scotland is among the few countries who have a national strategy for prevention and control of hepatitis: Scotland invested large sums of monay into the screening of the population fro hepatitis C, and is presently the only European country with a 3-year action plan for hepatitis control and eradication. Therefore, Scotland was cited as a very good example for controlling hepatitis C, which ELPA will also refer to in the White Paper Project.
The ELPA White Paper Project will not only analyse the economic impact of hepatitis C in European countries, but also hepatitis B, liver cancer and alcoholic liver diseases. We hope to demonstrate with this project that it is not only ethically important, but also cost-efficient for EU to act against hepatitis B, C, and other liver diseases.