HEPATITIS C: $7 Million for Screening a ‘Worthwhile’ Investment
"There are many diseases out there and only so much money. But hepatitis C deserves to have its time in the spotlight, especially considering the large number of infected Californians and the few who will discover they have it in time to take meaningful action," an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News claims. Hepatitis C, the editorial states, is a virus "much more common" than AIDS and "affects millions of unknowing Americans, slowly destroying their livers." The editorial points to statistics suggesting that about 500,000 Californians are infected and that incidence is particularly high among veterans, Hispanics and "anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1990, when a method for screening blood supplies was developed." The editorial touts SB 1256, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), as a possible solution to the hepatitis C problem. Polanco's bill "would appropriate $7 million to provide expanded education and screening so that people can find out if they have hepatitis C and then take immediate steps to stave off the devastation of liver disease and cancer." Also, the bill would focus state attention on veterans, the "medically indigent" and prison inmates. According to the bill, 39% of male inmates and 54% of female inmates are infected. The editorial points out that "[t]here is no cure; in fact, scientists are still struggling to figure out just how the virus operates and how it is transmitted ... people who get tested and discover they do have the virus need to tell their doctors, decide whether to drink alcohol, learn about the side effects associated with drug therapies and take care not to share even something as innocuous as a razor or toothbrush." The editorial concludes, "Compared to the cost of liver transplants, $7 million is a small and very worthwhile investment" (8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.