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Is the UK Set to Be Hepatitis C Free?

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection still represents a significant global health burden and is associated with progression to cirrhosis with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. It is estimated that approximately 58 million people are living with chronic HCV worldwide.

In December 2022, the National Health Service (NHS) England reported that it was on track to eliminate HCV by 2025 and attributed this to its pioneering elimination program (improved testing and greater access to treatment). This targeted program is in partnership with 23 operational delivery networks (ODNs) across the UK and is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of eliminating the hepatitis virus by 2030.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Office for Health Improvement and Disparities estimate that the number of people living with chronic HCV infections has fallen dramatically from 2015 to 2021, with a reduction of over 47%. This reduction in HCV infections has also shown an impressive reduction in mortality, with a fall of more than 10% (another WHO target).

This is despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a negative impact on HCV testing and treatment, decreasing treatment numbers by 40.2% in 2020/21. Despite the impressive reduction in the rate of HCV infections, UKHSA report in 2023 suggests that it is likely that almost three-quarters of those who are still living with chronic HCV remain unaware of their infection. However, multiple initiatives through the national HCV team, ODNs, and pharmaceutical companies, working collaboratively, have continued providing services to those at risk of infection.

Despite the disparity of data collection across UK health providers and the lack of a national HCV screening program and registry, six main strategic pillars provide the foundation for HCV elimination.

Access the full editorial, published in Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy, here.