A key stakeholder offers his insights on the importance of the new Biden plan to eliminate hepatitis C as well as the federal strategy to get more people linkage to care for hepatitis B.
Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, is excited about the new Eliminate Hepatitis C (HCV) program put forth by the Biden Administration and being led by former NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, who is serving as a scientific advisor to the Biden Administration.
“This is something we have been asking for years…We know we can end hepatitis C,” Schmid stated.
Last month, the administration put forth its annual budget, which they earmarked over $11 billion dollars for HCV care funding over the next 5 years. This ambitious program will expand testing, screening, prevention, and treatment of HCV, and will focus on the marginalized populations that are the greatest at risk. These populations include people who use drugs, the uninsured, Blacks, American Indians, and Alaskan indigenous peoples who may not be in the continuum of care currently.
Schmid and his organization are working with policy makers to put forth hepatitis care initiatives.
He says the HCV initiative also ties into the administration’s Cancer Moonshot. By reducing HCV, you will be able to decrease the incidence of liver cancer.
“We know that hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer,” Schmid said. “It is wonderful to have the leadership at the highest levels of the White House focusing on eliminating hepatitis C.”
He acknowledges the challenges of trying to pay for this overall expenditure, and he expects to offset some of the costs with savings to Medicaid and reducing medical expenses. He also says there are things outside the budget related to testing and care that can be changed to help more people get treated.
And testing has now become a focal point for hepatitis B (HBV) with the CDC's recently launched recommendations for screening. “One of the problems with hepatitis is that they call it the silent killer; people don’t know they have it,” Schmid stated.
According to Schmid, one of the major challenges associated with HBV is understanding risk factors and the lack of conversations between providers and patients around it. And with the new universal testing recommendation, it should get more people into the continuum of care.
“This is great that doctors should be testing anyone age 18 and up at least once for hepatitis B.”
Contagion spoke with Schmid recently who discussed these new HCV and HBV strategies and what they mean to the greater public.