Veterans may be up to 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C than the general population.
Merck recently announced a new collaboration with the American Liver Foundation that seeks to raise awareness about hepatitis C virus (HCV) risks among US veterans, according to a press release.
Through the collaboration, the American Liver Foundation will educate veterans about HCV risk factors and how they can be tested and gain access to treatment.
Chronic HCV can result in significant liver damage that leads to scarring and liver cancer. HCV is the most common blood-borne disease in the United States. Merck projects that up to 170 million people around the world have HCV and most do not know their status.
Unfortunately, most individuals do not know they have HCV since the infection is asymptomatic until significant damage is done, which drives up costs and reduces quality of life.
Veterans are 3 times more likely to have HCV than the general population and those born between 1945 and 1964 are 5 times more likely to have the infection, according to Merck.
In addition to age and military service, HCV risk factors include having had a blood transfusion before 1992, having injected drugs, having a tattoo or piercing, and being HIV-positive.
“Despite their increased risk for chronic hepatitis C virus infection, too many veterans remain undiagnosed,” said Thomas F. Nealon III, chief executive officer of the American Liver Foundation. “We are proud to work with Merck on this important initiative, which we believe will help many veterans better understand their risk, as well as their options for getting tested and linked to care.”
The educational events will occur in Boston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego, and will feature talks from American Liver Foundation educators. The speakers will discuss the risk factors for HCV and provide tips and resources for veterans at risk of or living with the infection, according to the release.
Recent findings from a real-world study show that 95.6% of veterans with HCV treated with Merck’s elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier) achieved sustained virologic response rates within 12 weeks of treatment.
Since veterans are at a higher risk of HCV, having effective treatment options is crucial.
“At Merck, we are deeply grateful for the service and sacrifices that veterans have made for our country,” said John Schwind, executive director, Merck. “We will continue working on behalf of veterans through initiatives such as this, as well as through our broader commitment to hiring veterans and providing resources to support employees transitioning to civilian life.”