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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CANADA: Change to Drug Coverage Will Help British Columbians with Hepatitis B, Support Group Says
By Chuck Chiang and Erin Ellis
May 30, 2013
Vancouver Sun (05.27.2013)

New British Columbia, Canada, policies will provide uninterrupted access to Pharmacare-covered medications for patients with chronic hepatitis B. Dr. Eric Yoshida, head of gastroenterology at the University of British Columbia, praised the new policy, which eliminates the need for British Columbian physicians to resubmit renewals for hepatitis B medications annually. Yoshida stated that gaps or delays in treatment could result in lower efficacy of the medications. Chronic hepatitis B incidence is higher in British Columbia than in other Canadian provinces because of the high number of Asian immigrants, many of whom were infected with hepatitis B at birth. Because hepatitis B often has no symptoms, many immigrants are unaware of the infection, which can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. SUCCESS, a Vancouver-based immigrant support group, received a $400,000 grant from the province to develop and implement education projects aimed to increase hepatitis B screening and treatment among immigrants. SUCCESS conducted a 2012 telephone poll of 1,000 Asian immigrants that revealed approximately half of participants had been screened for hepatitis B, but 88 percent of hepatitis B-infected people were not taking medications for the virus. Although not a cure, hepatitis B medications may slow damage to the liver.