Eliminating Hepatitis C in Canada

The Canadian Liver Foundation calls upon federal and provincial governments in Canada to develop strategies to eliminate hepatitis C from the Canadian population over the next 10-15 years. This will require significant investment in screening for those that are unaware that they have the disease and in assessment, treatment and patient care for those who have been diagnosed. Failure to identify and treat hepatitis C patients will result in unnecessary deaths and health care expenditures for individuals and governments. 

Chronic hepatitis C affects hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Infection with this virus puts patients at risk for developing cirrhosis and liver cancer and may necessitate a liver transplant or ultimately may lead to a slow and painful death. 

Hepatitis C is treatable and even curable for a vast majority of patients. There is little risk of transmission of the infection to others except in the case of those who contracted the virus through injection drug use. Consequently, once treated, the majority of patients will be cured and not at risk of re-infection. With investment in both treatment and prevention, it is therefore possible to virtually eliminate hepatitis C from the population. 

To date, treatment uptake has been limited due to severe side effects and lack of accessibility which has resulted in only a few thousand having been cured. Today however, drug therapies are simpler, shorter and have few side effects making them tolerable for most patients including those with the most advanced disease. The increasing numbers of patients suffering the consequences of severe liver disease coupled with the availability of these new and more effective treatment options makes it imperative for all levels of government to find workable strategies to tackle this disease. 

This position statement was revised in May 2014.
To download a PDF version of this position statement, click here.