536057_11954286Three years after the adoption of the European Parliament’s Written Declaration on Hepatitis C, leading health experts MEPs Alojz Peterle and Thomas Ulmer called upon Commission and Council to finally take up the fight and promote risk group specific screening by adopting a Council Recommendation on viral Hepatitis.

Co-hosted by the European Liver Patient Association (ELPA) and the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), the WHD event in the European Parliament sought to assess latest evidence on the disease burden, as well as offer policy solutions.

Alojz Peterle MEP commented: “If the EU is serious in its fight against Cancer, they have to be serious in fighting those diseases which can lead to cancer. Hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of liver cancer, which is one of the few tumour types with rising incidence. To curb this trend, we have to prevent transmission and identify those who carry the virus, so they can be treated as appropriate.”

Dr. Thomas Ulmer MEP pointed to the recent “Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C”, published by the US Institut of Medicine: “The epidemiological situation of viral Hepatitis B and C in the EU is similar, if not worse to that in the US. The EU hence needs to take the US Strategy as a role-model, when they finally respond to the European Parliament’s call and adopt a proposal for greater awareness of viral Hepatitis amongst health professionals, risk groups and the public at large.“

Nadine Piorkowsky, President of ELPA, said: “Patients have the right to know that they are patients. The majority of carriers of viral Hepatitis gain this basic knowledge only years, if not decades after their infection. We therefore hope that the EU will promote the early diagnosis of this disease, so that patients no longer live in ignorance of their condition.”

Professor Mark Thursz, Vice-Secretary of EASL concluded: “For us as liver specialists it is frustrating when we get to see hepatitis patients so late, when many of them have already developed complications of their infection such as liver-cirrhosis and liver cancer. Despite advances in hepatitis treatment, liver cancer is on the rise, because of late diagnosis.”

David Mercer, Head of Unit communicable diseases, WHO Europe concluded: “Viral Hepatitis poses a serious burden in the EU due to many factors, including migration from highly endemic countries in its neighbourhood.”