NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) have announced that they are treating record numbers of people with Hepatitis C, leading to estimates that the region could potentially eradicate the virus in the next decade.
Using the latest diagnostic tests and treatments, the Board’s clinicians have treated 1,213 people in the past year – 80 per cent more than the Scottish Government target of 675 for the health board area.
The virus affects the liver and, if left untreated, can potentially lead to serious and life-threatening conditions such as liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Treatment has changed dramatically and since 2015 everyone with a positive diagnosis is eligible for treatment with simple once daily tablets which cure over 95% of cases, with no significant side effects. This compares very favourably with the previous treatment of a 48 week course of injections which could be accompanied by serious side effects.
There are no restrictions on who can be treated. Physical and mental health conditions, including alcohol and drug use, are no longer a barrier to accessing treatment.
Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of Public Health, NHSGGC, said: “In the last year we have treated more than 1,200 people and there is a real possibility that we could potentially wipe it out within the next decade.
“Our mantra is test, treat, eliminate and through this, everyone involved in the care of patients who may have hepatitis C can play their part in preventing related liver disease, by offering a simple blood test.
“Our staff deserve enormous credit not only for being able to engage with so many people affected, but also for getting so many tested and into treatment.
Dr Stephen Barclay, consultant gastroenterologist, NHSGGC, said: “We know that there are thousands of people in the board area who are living with hepatitis C, but are unaware.
“The infection may cause no symptoms for many years until serious liver disease or cancer develops. In NHSGGC the risk is mainly amongst people who have used drugs, regardless of how long ago.
“We encourage anyone who has been at risk to get tested and treated which is a much easier process now.”