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World Hepatitis Day — Why We Should All Think Again

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Today is World Hepatitis Day, one of only four disease-related awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This year’s theme is ‘Think Again’, calling upon policy-makers, health workers and the public to re-think viral hepatitis.

It’s a critically important day because more than 500 million people, many unknowingly, are affected by viral hepatitis globally. And more so for us here in Asia Pacific where recent data showed that 70% of the 1.4 million annual global deaths associated with the disease occur.

It’s why the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) launched the ‘One Million Lives Lost’ social media campaign last year – drawing attention to the fact that every 30 seconds, one person dies from these devastating diseases in Asia Pacific countries.

Driven by our commitment to patients, we have developed some of the first new medicines for hepatitis C in nearly a decade. These are today positively impacting thousands of patients affected by hepatitis C. But we don’t stop there. We want to further transform how viral hepatitis is treated. This is why we maintain a strong and robust research program in both hepatitis B and C.

While the advances in hepatitis C treatment are extremely positive for individual patients, I firmly believe the battle against hepatitis C will only be won if we all come together. What the world needs is collaboration, a strong sense of urgency and a unified, concerted effort focused on driving health service and policy innovation. We are ready to play our part and we call for all parties to come together to take on the fight.

In Asia Pacific we are working hard to strengthen the regional response against viral hepatitis – diseases that are ravaging our communities.

Collaboration is at the heart of all our efforts.

  • In China, for example, we collaborate with Tsinghua University with the shared purpose of improving prevention measures and treatment options for people living with infectious diseases, including viral hepatitis. In 2013, the partnership’s annual Public Health Day promoted the exchange of scientific knowledge in viral hepatitis as part of an expanded collaboration with the Chinese Society of Hepatology.
  • The Shanghai Liver Centre, a research hub dedicated to developing hepatitis B and C treatments that meet the needs of those living in China and across Asia Pacific, also partners with external researchers where they work to pool expertise and knowledge toward shared goals.

I see huge potential in these types of collaborations, which can help define the future course of national and regional responses in chronic hepatitis.

Our commitment to hepatitis also extends to advocating for strengthened public health responses. We’re proud to be a partner of CEVHAP, the region’s leading advocacy organization, which is driving public policy reforms that aim to reduce the burden of viral hepatitis. One of the greatest challenges in tackling hepatitis is that often people are unaware of their infection until their disease has progressed to cirrhosis and liver cancer. We know that in South East Asia for example, approximately 65% of people living with chronic hepatitis B and 75% with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. That’s why World Hepatitis Day and awareness-raising is so important.

The WHO has referred to hepatitis C in particular as a ‘viral time bomb’ and it’s one that has been ticking loudly for some time here in Asia Pacific. I am proud of our commitments and thank my teams for their efforts, but today I am asking you to join my Janssen colleagues and I to “think again” – think what more we can be doing to tackle these diseases. Thank you for your support.

Kris Sterkens was appointed Company Group Chairman of Janssen Asia Pacific in February 2014. He transitioned to Asia Pacific after a career spanning 25 years with Janssen in EMEA and the United States. Kris holds a degree in Applied Economics from the University of Antwerp, a Master’s degree in Financial Management and an MBA from the Solvay Business School in Brussels. He is fluent in Dutch, English, German and French. .content

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