Plan to boost number of hepatitis C sufferers receiving treatment
THE number of people receiving specialist treatment for hepatitis C will increase dramatically under plans outlined by the Scottish Government yesterday.
Currently, only about 450 people a year receive antiviral treatment for the blood-borne disease – out of an estimated 50,000 people with the infection in Scotland, although only about 14,500 people are currently diagnosed with hepatitis C.
But if 2,000 people a year received treatment over the next 20 years, it is estimated 5,200 cases of cirrhosis and 2,700 of liver failure could be prevented.
The current low uptake of treatment has been blamed on a lack of awareness among patients, people remaining undiagnosed and a lack of resources to treat more sufferers. Yesterday, the Scottish Government said more than 43 million would be invested over the next three years to improve hepatitis C care and prevention.
Shona Robison, the public health minister, said diagnosis and treatment would be improved as part of an action plan. "There is still a lot of ignorance about hepatitis C and part of our plan will be to work to raise awareness among professionals, the public and those at risk of infection," she said.
The plan is intended to increase the number of patients on antiviral treatment to 1,500 by 2010-11 and at least 2,000 a year after that.
Jamie Stone, the public health spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "Given that at present there is no vaccine or cure, it's really important to raise public awareness of hepatitis C."
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