Real World Health Care Blog

Awareness and Assistance Are Crucial to Fighting Hepatitis C

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, a time when the healthcare and patient advocacy communities rally support for the millions of Americans afflicted with the disease, including an estimated 3.2 million suffering from chronic Hepatitis C (also known as HCV).

HepatitisAwarenessMonthOver time, chronic Hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. In fact, Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and is the number one cause of liver transplants.

While millions live with Hepatitis C, many don’t even know they are infected. This “hidden epidemic” can strike just about anyone, but those born from 1945 to 1965 are five times more likely to have the disease than those in other age groups. That’s why the CDC has issued a recommendation for all Americans born during that time to get a blood test for the disease.

In addition to the baby boomer generation, others may be at high risk for HCV infection, including those who:

  • Use injection drugs
  • Used unsterile equipment for tattoos or body piercings
  • Came in contact with infected blood or needles
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
  • Needed blood filtered by a machine (hemodialysis) for a long period of time due to kidney failure
  • Were born to a mother with HCV
  • Had unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • Have or had a sexually transmitted disease
  • Have HIV

For people at risk, knowing they have Hepatitis C can help them make important decisions about their healthcare. Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. But sometimes, the cost of those treatments are out of reach, even for those with medical insurance.

Financial Relief Available

The HealthWell Foundation’s new Hepatitis C Fund is bringing financial relief to underinsured people living with the disease. Through the fund, HealthWell will provide copayment assistance up to $15,000 for HCV treatment to eligible patients who are insured and have annual household incomes up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level. To determine eligibility and apply for assistance, or learn how to support this program, visit http://bit.ly/HepC2015.

“The new generation of hepatitis C treatments has brought excitement to patients who have been hoping for a breakthrough,” said Krista Zodet, HealthWell Foundation President. “Through the generosity of our donors, our Hepatitis C Fund is able to help more people receive these treatments while minimizing the worry over financial stress.”

Because many HCV infections are identified only after the patient becomes symptomatic, community health centers are extremely important for getting patients into care. BOOM!Health is a community service organization located in the Bronx, New York, the epicenter of the Hepatitis C epidemic in New York City. It offers a variety of services to those living with HCV infections, including a fully staffed health center, pharmacy services, case management, nutrition education, counseling, pantry services, syringe exchange, behavioral care, and more.

“People living with HCV continue to face serious challenges, such as stigma and lack of access to treatment,” said Robert Cordero, President and Chief Program Officer, BOOM!Health, a community health center based in the Bronx that supports individuals on their journey towards health, wellness and self-sufficiency. “Non-profits that provide funding assistance like HealthWell fill a gap that we’ve watched grow.”

“Nearly 3.2 million people in the United States and about 150 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV,” said Tom Nealon, Esq., National Board Chair of the American Liver Foundation, a national patient advocacy organization that promotes education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease. “The HealthWell Foundation and other independent copay charities play a vital role in seeing that those who are insured but can’t afford their medication copay are able to access and stay on treatment.”

If you or someone you know is living with Hepatitis C, emotional, physical and financial support are critical. What organizations and programs are you turning to for help? Let us know in the comments.

“It’s Lupus”: The Words No Woman Wants to Hear

They’re in the prime of their lives: young women who are finishing college, getting married, starting careers and families. Then comes the devastating diagnosis: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), otherwise known as lupus. One and a half million Americans are afflicted with lupus, but the disease occurs 10 times more in … (read full article)

Retraining Retired Docs to Alleviate Physician Shortage

If the industry estimates are correct, the United States could be facing a shortage of primary care physicians to the tune of 130,000 needed doctors by 2025. But a program developed by a group of physicians, along with University of California San Diego School of Medicine faculty, seeks to address … (read full article)

Categories: Access to Care, General

Speaking Up: Let Patients Have a Say

One of the main tenets of patient-centered care is giving patients more control over their health and health decisions made on their behalf. Patients have a clear and important role in their own care through a concept called “patienthood” — the self-management behavior that ensures we either give to ourselves … (read full article)

Why Schools are the Best Line of Defense in a Widespread Disease Outbreak

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, in 2014, about 49.8 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools in America. Another 5 million attended private schools. With the majority of our young people attending schools on a daily basis – a place where they interact with others constantly – … (read full article)

Healing the Soul of Medicine: The Prescription is an Injection of Humanity

Joseph Marr, MD, is a retired academic physician and pharmaceutical and biotechnology executive. He is the author of the book “Fall From Grace: A Physician’s Retrospective on the Past Fifty Years of Medicine and the Impact of Social Change.” The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the … (read full article)

The Future of Healthcare Transportation? May Just Be Subscription-Based Ride Share

Meeting the health-care demands of the elderly community is already a challenging job, but patients who miss appointments add to that challenge. Unlike 20 years ago, today there are more independent seniors who live remotely from immediate family. At the same time, more surgical procedures are now done with patients … (read full article)

30 Years of Health Disparities in Focus during National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about the health disparities that continue to affect minority populations. The observance traces its roots to a landmark 1985 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that documented the existence of health disparities among racial … (read full article)

Collaboration among Patient Advocacy Groups, Scientists & Clinicians Moves Porphyria Research Ahead

Editor’s Note: Recognizing National Porphyria Awareness Week this week, we invited Desiree Lyon, the Executive Director of the American Porphyria Foundation (APF), to share how her organization is supporting research that improves treatment and ultimately seeks a cure for this rare disease.  Patient advocacy groups addressing rare diseases play a … (read full article)

Life-Saving Information: Only a Smart Phone Away

For people suffering with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, allergies, or epilepsy, wearing jewelry or carrying wallet cards containing emergency medical information (EMI) can be life-saving. However, some people feel uncomfortable with the stigma attached to EMI, or don’t use such accessories due to cost or inconvenience. Children, especially, … (read full article)