A new report by Roche and hep C patient groups says that more needs to be done to better that rate of treatment of hepatitis C in the UK.

The ‘Confronting the silent epidemic: a critical review of hepatitis C management in the UK’ report, found that a quarter of health commissioners in the NHS had yet to estimate the numbers diagnosed with hepatitis C, with two-thirds having no estimate of the numbers cured by treatment.

The report has also been released at a time when research shows a decline in treatment rates, and concerns over the impact the NHS reforms could have on hepatitis treatment services.

Roche, which develops and sells the ageing hep C treatments Pegasys and Copegus, believes encouraging innovative, localised approaches to service design based on improving patient outcomes through effective, early interventions is key to improving treatment rates.

The report was funded by Roche and endorsed by The Hepatitis C Trust and British Liver Trust – both of which Roche gives financial support to – as well as the European Liver Patients Association.

Charles Gore, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, which receives the highest level of funding from Roche for any patient organisation, said: “The alarming rise in hepatitis C related deaths must be addressed and innovative approaches to service design are essential to improving patient outcomes and saving lives. At a time of reform, it is now more important than ever that hepatitis C is a priority for commissioners and service providers throughout the UK.

“Through re-thinking the design and delivery of services, we can help ensure patients receive early, effective treatment and reduce the significant costs to the health service and society more widely.”

Roche said it also wants to help assist doctors and commissioners to meet the “achievable goal” of reducing the burden of disease on health services, as it says associated annual healthcare costs are around £83 million, estimated to rise to £115 million by 2035.

It believes that by using hep C drugs such as its own products and increasing treatment, costs can be brought down as the disease will be more manageable in patients, with less risk of cirrhosis and the need for liver transplants, which are costly to the NHS and a bad outcome for patients.

Impact of NHS reform

In addition, new hepatitis specialist qualitative research in the report suggests current challenges in the management of hepatitis C, including service capacity and commissioning, may be exacerbated by the major reorganisation of the NHS.

One respondent said that: “Capacity to treat patients is always an issue, even more so now with triple therapy. Our nurses cannot cope with more patients at any one time.”

Another added: “I think the pressure from commissioners is only going to increase. Although NICE has approved treatments, I’m not sure commissioners will continue to see it as good value for their money.”