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Research shows doctors are failing to diagnose more than 50% of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)

Survey results show people living with HCV in the UK, the Netherlands and Belarus are less likely to be diagnosed than their global counterparts, increasing the possibility of liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Findings from HCV Quest, a global patient survey with 4,000 respondents from across the world, showed that half of people diagnosed with HCV reported that their doctors had initially failed to recognise symptoms and less than 46% were referred for a test.

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. HCV is one of the most prevalent of the hepatitis viruses, killing more than 700,000 people every year. HCV represents a growing health crisis for countries across the globe, where estimates suggest there are approximately 130 – 150 million people currently living with the disease. A significant number of those affected will go on to develop cirrhosis or inoperable liver cancer if left untreated.

The survey results also showed that 7 out of 10 respondents didn’t even know what hepatitis C was before they were tested. People in Brazil were the least aware with only 13% knowing about hepatitis C compared to Pakistan, where half knew and Italy, where two thirds of respondents said they knew, the only country where awareness was relatively high.

“The HCV Quest global patient survey aims to capture the realities of hepatitis C – from diagnosis to treatment – directly from those currently living with the disease.” commented Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance. “The results have been striking, suggesting not only that a significant proportion of people were not aware of hepatitis C until diagnosed, but that doctors are also failing to diagnose it. This is a crisis that must be urgently addressed”.

Today, healthcare professionals, academics and civil society groups from across the world are meeting at The International Liver CongressTM in Barcelona, to discuss new clinical advancements and public health approaches. These results show that a greater emphasis needs to be put on creating awareness amongst patients and healthcare professionals as early intervention is key to reducing the global burden.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Less than 1 in 5 people in Netherlands (10%), UK (16%), Belarus (16%), and Israel (17%) were offered a test after describing symptoms of hepatitis C to their physician compared to more than 1 in 2 people in China (69%), Malaysia (66%), Egypt (64%) and Romania (54%).
  • In the USA, only 30% were offered a hepatitis C test at although 52% of respondents said they had symptoms suggestive of hepatitis C
  • Brazil, Argentina and Poland were the least aware of hepatitis C before their diagnosis. Italy, Canada and Greece were the most aware of hepatitis C before their diagnosis
  • Nearly 1 in 4 people have suffered discrimination in work or in education or their prospects have been affected
  • 1 in 5 respondents hadn’t told anybody about their condition. In China, 75% of respondents hadn’t told anybody.

“There is a huge difference in the management of hepatitis C across the world. What the HCV Quest report shows is that a holistic approach is needed. Comprehensive national plans which scale up awareness, prevention and diagnosis and can tackle stigma and discrimination are essential to hit the global target of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030″, said Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

The HCV Quest global patient survey was undertaken by the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), with support from the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), with the aim of gathering insights from people living with HCV in order to drive meaningful improvements in its diagnosis and management. To help elevate these findings, WHA has produced a HCV Quest Toolkit which includes the global report, 22 national reports, in both English and the national language, and complementary materials, including infographics, fact sheets, user guides etc.