National Medical Association Releases Report on Hepatitis C Among African Americans

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The National Medical Association, the largest medical organization representing African American physicians and their patients, has issued a new report on hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among Black Americans, emphasizing the need for increased awareness, more screening of this population, and broader inclusion of African Americans in clinical trials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all "Baby Boomers" born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for HCV at least once regardless of risk. NMA concurs, but also recommends increased screening for at risk populations.

At the recent AASLD Liver Meeting researchers reported that a study of U.S. veterans -- a group that includes a large proportion of African Americans -- showed that about half had ever been tested for HCV, and within this group 10% were found to be infected.

Below is an edited excerpt from a recent National Medical Association press release describing the reports and its findings. The full report is available online.

Experts Release Landmark Findings and Recommendations on Hepatitis C in African Americans

Leading experts convene and issue a Consensus Panel paper on Hepatitis C; which provides an undeniably clear roadmap for addressing this health disparity. The National Medical Association raises the alarm for African Americans and calls for an aggressive approach.

Silver Spring, Maryland -- November 5, 2013 -- The National Medical Association (NMA) today released the much anticipated Consensus Panel Paper entitled Hepatitis C: A Crisis in the African American Community. The NMA is the nation’s largest and oldest association of African American physicians and when faced with the startling facts on the burden of Hepatitis C (HCV) in the African American community, Immediate NMA Past President, Rahn K. Bailey, MD, convened experts to make recommendations to address this crisis.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease. "Hepatitis C is more common and results in higher primary liver cancer and death rates due to liver disease in African Americans compared to White Americans. This disparity in morbidity and mortality can be reduced by current HCV treatments which cure infection in 55%-60% of African Americans."

To explore the issues that lead to higher rates of disease and poorer outcomes among African Americans, the NMA convened a Consensus Panel. The Consensus Panel was Co-chaired by two of the nation’s leading hepatologists: Charles Howell, MD, Director of Hepatology Research at the University of Maryland, and Andrew Muir, MD, Director of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research at Duke Clinical Research Institute.

The Rationale: The Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] (CDC) recommends that all U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time test for HCV. One in 30 baby boomers -- the generation born from 1945 through 1965 -- has been infected with HCV, and most don't know it. The panel supports these guidelines but recommends increased screening of HCV in all at-risk populations.

Dr. Andrew Muir explains, "Hepatitis C has the potential to devastate the African American community in the next 10 to 20 years. It is a quiet infection until the very late stages, and so it is critical that all patients, particularly African Americans patients, get screened for HCV before symptoms develop. There are now treatments that can cure HCV and prevent the complications. We have the ability to prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer from HCV, but we first have to find the patients living with this infection."

Dr. Charles Howell strongly agrees: "It is imperative that we have focused efforts to identify African Americans infected with HCV and that infected people receive adequate healthcare for this deadly disease."

Dr. Michael LeNoir, President of the NMA, states, "The National Medical Association’s Hepatitis C Consensus Paper is just another step in our process to address the impact of Hepatitis C in all communities with an emphasis on minority populations. The NMA is more committed than ever to the implementation of the Hepatitis C action plan. Our organization will step up the effort to educate our communities and our providers about the potential dangers of HCV infection."

The National Medical Association’s Hepatitis C Consensus Panel’s findings and recommendations include but are not limited to the following:

For more information; contact the National Medical Association and to download a copy of the report, visit www.NMAnet.org.

Founded in 1895, the National Medical Association is the nation's oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 35,000 African American physicians and their patients. The NMA advocates for policies that assure equitable and quality health care for all people. The Consensus Panel was made possible, in part, by an educational grant and/or contribution from AbbVie, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and OraSure Technologies.

11/15/13

Sources

National Medical Association Consensus Panel.Hepatitis C: A Crisis in the African American Community. October 2013.

Experts Release Landmark Findings and Recommendations on Hepatitis C in African Americans. Press release. November 5, 2013.