HepEquity Blog: Improving access to hepatitis B treatment
Hepatitis B is a serious global health problem, with about 3% of the total worldwide population living with chronic infection. Of those millions of infected people, less than 10% are accessing treatment. This means that more than 800,000 people die annually—that’s two people every minute— as a result of complications from untreated hepatitis B.
The good news is that hepatitis B, or HepB, is not difficult to treat. Unfortunately, current recommendations for treatment of chronic hepatitis B are quite complex, often involving flow charts for doctors to follow and multiple steps of testing and referrals. There aren’t enough specialists and facilities for everyone who needs treatment to receive it. Because of this, those diagnosed with hepatitis B often fall out of treatment. This problem is especially important in low- and middle- income countries where access to doctors, tests, and medicine are already extremely limited and can be a huge source of financial strain on patients and their families.
The Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination is working to address the complex challenges of hepatitis B treatment. We received a grant in September of 2022 from Open Philanthropy to develop a roadmap for hepatitis B simplification that can be used to create new strategies to treat more people with HepB. We have already begun this work by engaging experts from around the world, including scientists, clinicians and other providers with experience providing hepatitis B treatment in settings where access to care is a challenge. We have conducted a series of interviews to inform our recommendations, and on May 17-18, 2023, we convened a meeting at our headquarters:
Expanding Access to Hepatitis B Testing and Treatment: Developing a Research Roadmap
More than twenty hepatitis B experts from around the world, representing ten countries and five continents, gathered at our headquarters in Atlanta for a two-day event. We worked to identify research gaps that are preventing access to treatment, and where we need more data to better care for people with HBV in resource-limited settings.
Presentations and panels included:
- An opening lecture by Nobel laureate Harvey Alter on the history of hepatitis B virus, its discovery and treatment progress
WHO perspectives on operational research for viral hepatitis care and treatment
Lessons learned from HIV scale-up
HBV operational research in LMICs and global systematic review of HBV cascade
Key evidence gaps and operational research needs for HBV service delivery, engaging patients and communities, and prevention of mother to child transmission
Viewpoints on operational research for improved delivery of new or innovative technologies in LMICs
Operational research centers and cohorts in LMICs and viewpoints on regional research collaborations
Together with our partners, the Coalition looks forward to sharing the results of this project. We can make treatment for persons living with hepatitis B more accessible and affordable, ensuring more people get care.