Pharmacists need greater role in tackling hepatitis C, says PHE
Pharmacist could ensure more people were diagnosed to combat the rising number of deaths due to hepatitis C, says Public Health England scientist, Dr Helen Harris
Pharmacists can play an important role in combating the rising number of deaths from hepatitis C, a leading scientist has said.
Community pharmacists could ensure more people were diagnosed as well as educating the public about risk factors and the availability of treatment, said Helen Harris, a hepatitis C expert for Public Health England (PHE).
According to a PHE report, published to coincide with World Hepatitis Day on Monday (July 28), hospital admissions for hepatitis C-related liver disease and cancer rose almost 300 per cent from 608 in 1998 to 2,390 in 2012. Deaths linked to the infection also rose over 300 per cent from 98 in 1996 to 428 in 2012, PHE said.
Around 214,000 individuals are chronically infected with hepatitis C in the UK, including around 50 per cent of individuals who inject drugs in England. An estimated 28,000 patients were treated for the infection in England between 2006 and 2011 – approximately 3 per cent of those chronically infected each year, PHE said.
In the report, the commissioning body identified four areas where public health programmes needed to make progress: preventing new infections, increasing awareness and testing, and getting individuals into treatment and care.
Health commissioners needed to work together to improve access to hepatitis C treatments in primary and secondary care, it said. Local provisions should be put in place to promote and offer testing to groups who may have the infection but were not in regular contact with health services, such as those who had contracted it from drug use, PHE added.
Although work programmes had driven improvements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C across the UK, more needed to be done to combat the rise in morbidity and mortality from liver disease resulting from the infection, it said. Further efforts were also needed to raise understanding of the infection in primary care by encouraging health professionals to undertake e-learning and other training, such as the Royal College of GP's certificate in hepatitis B and C.