Community sign on letter - Support the Introduction of Viral Hepatitis Screening and Testing Legislation in the House and Senate

Share this

Dear Colleagues,
Please sign on your organization to the letter below (and attached).
Send the name of your organization, City, State and Zip code to Mimi Schott , no later than 5PM Friday, June 17th.


June 10, 2011

Dear Representative,

The undersigned organizations strongly support your efforts to control the burgeoning viral hepatitis epidemics. We encourage you and your colleagues to introduce and pass legislation to establish, promote, and implement hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) screening and testing programs at State, local, territorial, and tribal levels. Most Americans with HBV or HCV remain unaware of their status, and this legislation aims to increase the knowledge of disease status in those chronically infected - from the current estimate of 25% for HCV; and 35% for HBV to 75% by 2016. Earlier diagnosis of HBV and HCV is critical for preventing and managing the most serious effects – such as liver cancer and liver failure – of chronic viral hepatitis infection.

An estimated 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with HBV, with 400 million chronically infected. Approximately 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV, and an estimated 5.3 million people living in the United States are infected with either HBV or HCV. At least 2% of the people in your district are living with one of these chronic diseases.
The cost implications of HBV and HCV today and in the future are enormous. Without effective intervention, annual medical costs for HCV alone are expected to rise from $30 billion to $85 billion per year in the next 15 years. As this population ages and the disease progresses, government payers will bear the majority of the financial impact.1 For HBV, “More than $1 billion is spent each year (just) for hepatitis B-related hospitalizations.”2 Much of this future cost is avoidable with earlier diagnosis and intervention. A modest investment in education and testing programs today will bend the cost curve associated with these serious epidemics, containing the spiraling medical costs of end-stage liver disease and saving the lives of Americans living with these silent killers.

Dramatic health inequities also exist in chronic viral hepatitis. HBV and HCV are the leading cause of liver cancer, one of the fastest-growing and most lethal cancers in the United States. From 2010 to 2030, the number of liver cancer cases in the U.S. is expected to rise 59% to 34,000 cases per year, with the highest increases expected among Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.3 Early intervention can change the outcome of HBV or HCV. We have the tools to prevent much liver cancer with the hepatitis B vaccine, effective hepatitis B treatments that can slow or halt disease progression, and new hepatitis C treatments that increase cure rates by up to 79%. We also have the diagnostic tools, including a new rapid hepatitis C screening test. However, without adequate testing programs we cannot identify those who are unaware of their infection and link them to appropriate counseling and care.

We urge you to make liver cancer prevention a leading health priority in Congress through expanding screening and testing for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. We look forward to your introduction and promotion of a strong viral hepatitis screening and testing bill.

List in Development

1. Consequences of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV): Costs of a Baby Boomer Epidemic of Liver Disease. May 2009, Milliman, Inc.
2. NIH Consensus Development Conference on the Management of Hepatitis B, last accessed June 10, 2011
3. Smith B, Smith G, Hurria A, Hortobagyi G, Buchholz. (2009). Future of cancer incidence in the United States: burdens upon an aging, changing nation. J Clin Oncol 27: 1-10.