WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ms. Lorren Sandt, Chair of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) issued the following statement in advance of the President's State of the Union Address. NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans:
"With tonight's State of the Union address, the President kicks off a national discussion about how best to fund our nation's priorities and values through the FY 2011 federal budget. While we recognize the need to address our nation's economic challenges, it is critical that policymakers understand that a budgetary freeze would leave more than 5 million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis out in the cold.
"In its budget proposal last year, the Administration proposed a meager increase of $51,000 for federal viral hepatitis prevention, treatment, and surveillance programs. Ultimately, Congress enacted a $900,000 increase in funding, but that figure is still woefully inadequate given the scope of this crisis. Our nation's public-health system cannot afford another year of neglect. Each and every day in 2010, more Americans will become infected and thousands more will silently progress to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure because they don't they know they are infected and need treatment. Without decisive federal action, Milliman estimates that public and private payer costs for treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion.
"Not surprisingly, earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine (IoM) issued a landmark report finding that the federal government has failed to provide adequate resources for national and local prevention, control, and surveillance programs for chronic viral hepatitis. As a result, the IoM has concluded that health-care providers lack the knowledge or awareness to screen and treat chronic viral hepatitis and that most infected Americans don't know they are infected, let alone getting treatment. The best available data finds that roughly 1 in 50 Americans are infected with chronic viral hepatitis. Although minorities are disproportionately affected, chronic viral hepatitis B and C afflict Americans from all walks of life.
"The Administration and Congress have an opportunity to make 2010 a year of action by funding chronic viral hepatitis prevention, treatment, and surveillance programs. Bipartisan legislation, 'The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act,' sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Charles Dent (R-Pa) would increase federal funding for comprehensive prevention, research, and medical management referral programs for chronic viral hepatitis B and C infection. The bill would provide an initial $90 million in funding in 2011 – with additional funding thereafter – that will increase the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance efforts. Much of the legislation tracks with the IoM's recommendations. The legislation currently has 23 total bipartisan co-sponsors.
"It's time to bring a chronic illness afflicting more than 5 million Americans in from the cold and begin to address these diseases with the full force of decisive federal action they deserve."
SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable