By Gaston Picchio, Hepatitis Disease Area Leader, Janssen
As a scientist involved in hepatitis C research for 20 years, it is very gratifying to see the recent explosion of advances against this disease. Often called the silent epidemic, hepatitis C is the most prevalent form of viral hepatitis in the United States. Globally, it is estimated that three percent of the world’s population--up to 170 million people--is currently infected with hepatitis C. In the United States, an estimated 3.2 million people are infected, but most don’t know it, and every year approximately 12,000 Americans die from hepatitis C-related liver disease.
While most days at Janssen we strive to make a difference for patients through our research to create simpler, safer and more effective treatments for hepatitis C, on August 2, at the second annual White House World Hepatitis Day Event, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts about how Janssen can help make a difference in another way: through public and industry partnerships.
Janssen is one of several companies that were invited to the White House to be part of the discussion about the current state of viral hepatitis in the United States. The event was sponsored by The Office of National AIDS Policy in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The organizations convened leaders in hepatitis disease research, education and treatment, including government officials, policymakers, physicians and industry representatives, to discuss the current state of viral hepatitis. The event was one of several held to commemorate World Hepatitis Day 2012, and President Barack Obama declared the administration’s support for the day through an official Presidential Proclamation.
The proclamation outlines the administration’s plan to address the epidemic, including the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, the Healthy People 2020 initiative and other federal programs. Janssen has aligned with the administration’s plan as an active partner with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation through the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition (VHAC). We have collaborated through VHAC with the CDC and our industry colleagues to significantly increase the pool of data and solid science that is guiding all our efforts to address the viral hepatitis epidemic in the United States and globally.
At the meeting, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Rapid Advances in Viral Hepatitis” panel discussion along with representatives from other companies involved in hepatitis management. During the discussion, I spoke about our plan to find innovative avenues to continue partnering with state and local health departments and community-based organizations to increase access to hepatitis C diagnosis and linkage to care and treatment. Furthermore, I underscored the importance of establishing collaborations across industry since I strongly believe this will enable the development of better treatments in the shortest possible time. Through these public and private collaborations, our goal is to improve the overall national response to hepatitis C.
Although hepatitis C treatment research is advancing rapidly, perhaps more rapidly than for any other therapeutic area, these advances will offer only part of the solution. At Janssen, our commitment to making a difference in the lives of people impacted by hepatitis C goes beyond our research. We are fighting this disease on multiple fronts, and look forward to more collaborations like this one.