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U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson battling hepatitis C;
news reporter misstates HCV information
From Jules:
In this article in the press there are 2 misstatements, the writer says HCV is incurable and also his comments suggest that he is saying says peginterferon+ribavirin is an experimental treatment although we don't know what experimental therapy the congressman is on to "keep the disease in remission" but I am assuming they mean peginterferon+ribavirin or peginterferon maintenance therapy. This reflects to some degree ignorance and a lack of response by the Federal government about HCV in general. Many patients as well as others for sure don't know HCV is curable. Government officials suffer in general from a lot of ignorance regarding HCV. For example, a major Federal committee does not completely support screening, nor do they feel long-term benefit has been established by an SVR or cure, and these attitudes can fuel misunderstrandings about HCV both in the government as well as among non-expert medical clinicians like general practitioners and family practitioners. These attitudes are a barrier to proper screening for HCV-infection and for screening for HCC, liver cancer. This is why so many patients do not get tested for HCV until it's too late and they have advanced cirrhosis or even liver cancer. In the USA we do not have Federal funded HCV screening not liver cancer screening not any large scale testing not surveillance by the Federal government. These are reasons why patients get sivk or die from HCV, something that can be prevented if we had Federal programs for HCV screening and liver cancer screening. At the recent AASLD researchers from the large Federally funded HALT-C Study reported that SVR (cure) and even transient virus suppression improve survival and disease progression, here, read it for yourself:
AASLD: SVR Improves Survival, Risk for Liver Cancer, Decompensated Liver Disease and Liver Transplant/Death - Also, Transient Viral Suppression (breakthroughs/relapsers) Improves Clinical Outcomes Too - (11/09/09)
The main outcome of this study is that SVR reduces risk for HCC, decompensation, liver transplant/liver death any other clinical outcomes compared in the HALT-C Study, which looked at peg/rbv nonresponders and included patients with advanced disease. This is good because some federal government committees have suggested there is not adequate proof that SVR improves clinical outcomes for patients and therefore have not supported federal funding for programs for patients including HCV screening and surveillance and therapy as this AASLD last week the same investigators reported patients in HALT-C who were breakthroughs/relapsers, "patients with viral suppression", had significantly reduced risk of developing any liver-related complication when compared with non-responders; see graphs and table below: reduced risk for "any outcome, decompensation liver transplant/liver death" appear statistically significant, reduced risk for HCC was not statistically significant between nonresponder and breakthrough/relapser but there appeared to be a reduced risk in the number of events.


He is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with a combination of interferon and ribavirin, which like cancer chemotherapy comes with many side-effects.
"He has been a model patient, sticking with his course of treatment even when it was most difficult," his physician, Dr. Maria Sjogren, said in a statement.
Up for reelection in November 2010, Johnson said he is planning to begin campaigning for office again, in earnest, when he's done with his latest round of treatment in February. At least two Republican challengers have said they'll run for his seat.
Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, said he doesn't think that an illness such as Johnson's is necessarily damaging to a politician's career. That's especially the case in a district where they have a strong base, he added -- as Johnson has with Democrats in the 4th congressional district.
"Certainly it's something they're going to have to deal with," Abramowitz said. "But it's my guess that if someone has a solid base in their constituency, they could survive it."
Along with seeking reelection, Johnson said he wants to become an advocate for hepatitis C victims. He said Monday he has signed-on as a co-sponsor of a House bill that would establish and promote a comprehensive prevention, education and research program for viral hepatitis infections.
He also said he plans to begin working with the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that works to prevent viral hepatitis.
"On behalf of the entire chronic viral hepatitis community, we offer Congressman Johnson our support, prayers and encouragement," Martha Saly, director of the group, said in a statement. "Congressman Johnson's announcement shines a much-needed spotlight on a public-health issue that has historically resided in the shadows."
Sometimes called the "silent epidemic" because it can can manifest itself in a vicitim for decades without showing any symptoms, hepatitis C has become better known publicly in recent years. Numerous celebrities, including singers Naomi Judd and Natalie Cole and actors such as Pamela Anderson and Christopher Kennedy Lawford who have been stricken with the disease and have become outspoken advocates encouraging people to get tested regularly for it and for finding a cure.
Johnson said he hopes to do the same.
"There are literally milions of poeple walking around with this virus who do not even know they have it," Johnson said. "And once they do know they have it, the sigma of getting treated is there.
"I'm going to be a public figure who takes the sigma away from having the virus," he said.
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