States "still looking across the fence" on hepatitis treatment: WHO

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Dispensing generic medicines at a hospital in the Philippines. Photo: WHO

Hepatitis is one of the world's biggest killers and although many countries have taken action to eradicate the threat it poses, others need to do more, the UN said on Thursday.

Latest data indicates that well over one million people died from the liver disease in 2015, putting it on a par with TB, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on Friday 28 July, the UN health agency has highlighted what countries with the biggest share of sufferers have done to help them.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The health threat posed by hepatitis is staggering – it claimed more than 1.3 million lives in 2015 – while close to a third of a billion people live with chronic liver disease and require constant treatment.

The bad news doesn't end there.

Of the two most common hepatitis types – B and C – hepatitis C is still gaining ground, with 1.7 million people newly infected in 2015.

Much more encouraging news is what's been done to tackle the problem by the 28 countries that share 70 per cent of the global hepatitis burden.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, nearly all of them have set up high-level hepatitis elimination committees, with plans and targets in place.

Crucially, more than half have allocated dedicated funds to follow through on their commitments, but many more countries need to follow suit, says the UN health agency's Dr Gottfried Hirnschall:

"I really want to be optimistic here and I think we have reason to be optimistic to say, some countries are really stepping up to the plate, others are still looking across the fence, others are sort of getting ready by putting things in place…"

Eliminating hepatitis is a 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.

Just this week, that global health objective got a boost when WHO announced that a cheaper generic treatment is now available for hepatitis C, bringing the cost down to US$ 250 or less for three months' medication in some countries.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’25″


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