Hepatitis C and bleeding disorders in Europe

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In the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of people with bleeding disorders (PWBD) across the world were infected with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) through contaminated treatment products. The extent of the infection, as well as the needs of those still living with HCV, were never properly assessed. The purpose of our survey was to identify how many PWBD were infected with HCV in Europe, as well as their health status and needs. HCV infection was defined as any person with a bleeding disorder who was exposed to the virus and seroconverted to become anti-HCV antibody positive. The survey also looked at testing and treatment availability. Between December 2016 and March 2017, the survey was distributed to 45 national patient organisations in the European Haemophilia Consortium (EHC), who were encouraged to respond with the support of a local hepatologist. The data gathered led us to estimate that some 15,000 people with bleeding disorders were infected with HCV in the 30 countries that responded. Although some countries have detailed records of patients with HCV, most - including some with national haemophilia registries - were unable to provide exact numbers of initial infections, HIV coinfection, survival and SVR rates. Responding countries reported varying degrees of monitoring for disease progression, as well as extremely divergent access to new direct-acting antivirals, with only eight countries prioritising PWBD for treatment. With liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma being among the main causes of death in an aging bleeding disorders population, this survey identifies a clear gap in care. It is a frustrating paradox that today, in many European countries PWBD, such as haemophilia, may live long and productive lives due to much-improved access to factor replacement therapy, yet die prematurely of a curable disease such as hepatitis C. It has been demonstrated that HCV eradication in PWBD can be achieved through national commitment, especially when the patient population is limited and HCV eradication could be achieved in the short-term. The eradication of HCV in PWBD in Europe is an idea whose time has come.

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