A blog by Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H., the Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, US Department of Health and Human Services, summarizes the Liver Meeting, which took place in Boston on November 9–13. The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) organizes the meeting, which is the largest gathering of hepatologists in the world. Ms Dan found the meeting exciting because it featured new information about novel hepatitis treatments in development and the latest updates about how to use currently available treatment.
She reports that there were conversations about the new standard of care for hepatitis C: triple therapy combining one of the two recently approved oral drugs with traditional medications (pegylated interferon and ribavirin). Researchers presented studies showing that triple therapy is creating better outcomes, by curing up to 80 percent of patients who complete treatment—sometimes in a shorter time period than standard treatment. Participants also discussed the side effects that make some patients defer or stop treatment prematurely and the race to find better treatments with fewer adverse effects that work faster and cure more patients. Dan learned that more than 30 new hepatitis C drugs are in development, and some may have cure rates close to 100 percent. Also, the second generation of new oral drugs should become available in the next two years, and even more effective combinations are expected in 5 to 7 years.
Panelists presented on new Hepatitis B research that is focused on increasing what is now known about the virus and how it harms the liver, when people with chronic hepatitis B should begin treatment and the best treatments, how to reduce liver cancer in persons with chronic hepatitis B, and what combinations of drugs are most effective in curing the disease. The experts also shared updates on using medication to prevent hepatitis B transmission from mother to child and how long the vaccine provides protection.
Representatives of federal partners involved with implementation of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan participated in the meeting, including Dr. Jay Hoofnagle, from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, who presented sessions at the Clinical Research workshop and Dr. John Ward, from CDCs’ Division of Viral Hepatitis, who spoke on the global epidemiology of viral hepatitis at the Federal Focus session led by colleagues from the National Cancer Institute. The Department of Veterans Affairs described their Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO) project.
Dan concludes that the goals of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan (improved testing, care, and treatment to prevent liver disease) can be achieved through improvements in care and treatment for chronic hepatitis B and C. She posits that members of the AASLD and other health care professionals who diagnose, manage, and treat these diseases can contribute by caring for patients and providing specialty support to health care teams that include primary care physicians and mid-level providers to expand access and help care for patients with viral hepatitis. In other words, she advocates working together to realize the goals of the Action plan.