Spain is poised to be a leader in eliminating hepatitis C

Spain is poised to be a leader in eliminating hepatitis C

Spain is on the other side of the scale. We are about to become the first developed country to eliminate this virus, which is transmitted mainly through blood and is silent, but when it shows signs of presence it can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.


Necessary research, consensus and investment have shown that in just over three decades the disease can be detected, an effective treatment found and eradication contemplated. This achievement was possible because in 2015 the Strategic Plan to Address Hepatitis C was launched, which expects, among other measures, that all infected people will have access to antiviral drugs, which although they are expensive and took 10 months to include in the public system. They save lives.

Specifically, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health, from 2015 to June 2023, 164,502 people in Spain were treated with direct-acting antivirals, and 95% of them were cured. This figure indicates that Spain is the country that has treated the largest number of patients per thousand inhabitants, which made it possible to put the infection prevalence rate at low levels. In 2019, this proportion was 0.15% of the population, while in the European Union it was 0.5%.

The elimination goals set by the World Health Organization for 2030 are to reduce new infections by 90%; 65% reduction in deaths from cirrhosis and liver cancer; Achieving a diagnosis rate of more than 90%, and treating at least 80% of people.

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The pandemic has slowed it down

“Spain is very close to achieving this,” predicts Javier García Samaniego Rey, coordinator of the Alliance to Eliminate Viral Hepatitis in Spain. “The epidemic has slowed down progress a little, but between 2024 and 2025 the goal will be achieved.” AEHVE) and Head of the Hepatology Department at La Paz Hospital.

Completing this unprecedented success – because it will be the first time in just three decades that an infectious disease has emerged for which there is no vaccine – still requires one last effort. “The outstanding challenges are finding people who are still undiagnosed, that is, between 20,000 and 25,000 cases, and people who have been diagnosed but have not started treatment, about 50,000,” according to Carlos Galera, head of the Viral Hepatitis Study Group in the United States. . Society for Infectious Diseases SEIMC.

In order to achieve both goals, several scientific and patient associations are calling for an extension of the checks that Galicia, Cantabria and Andalusia have already implemented on people between 40 and 70 years of age who approach the health system for any reason, because granting them an examination. In order to detect cases among the most vulnerable groups far from care, such as the homeless or those moving into settings associated with prostitution or drugs, active searches must also continue. “Spain is very well placed to achieve partial elimination of hepatitis C, and we have some strategies remaining, and this is where we are,” Dr. Galera concludes.

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