Brown study shows path to reducing hepatitis C in Rhode Island

Hepatitis C causes serious, potentially fatal, damage to the liver over an extended period of time.
Hepatitis C causes serious, potentially fatal, damage to the liver over an extended period of time. | File photo

A recent study from Brown University suggests Rhode Island could reduce hepatitis C cases by 90 percent and prevent more than 70 percent of related deaths by 2030 if the number of residents receiving treatment increases by 2,000 people a year.

“Hepatitis C kills more people in the United States than any other infectious disease,” study co-author Lynn Taylor, assistant professor of medicine at Brown and founder of Rhode Island Defeats Hepatitis C, said. “In fact, hepatitis C causes more deaths than all other 60 infectious diseases reportable to the CDC, combined. This is the critical infectious disease epidemic of our time. Our goal is elimination. We need to scale up our testing and treatment with urgency to avert preventable illness and early death.”

Hepatitis C causes serious, potentially fatal, damage to the liver over an extended period of time. While treatments are advanced and can cure the disease in a matter of weeks, they typically cost tens of thousands of dollars. Published in Epidemiology and Infection, the study suggests that the state could essentially eliminate the disease within two decades if it helps more people receive treatment.

“Hepatitis C virus-related morbidity and mortality can be reduced significantly in Rhode Island if an aggressive treatment strategy is implemented over the next decade,” public health assistant professor Brandon Marshall said. “The medications available today are so effective that — with increased treatment uptake — we have the opportunity to all but eliminate the disease by 2030.”

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