Experts release landmark findings on blacks and hepatitis C

November 14, 2013


The National Medical Association (NMA) on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, released the much anticipated Consensus Panel Paper entitled: Hepatitis C: A Crisis in the African American Community. When faced with the startling facts on the burden of Hepatitis C (HCV) in the Black community, former NMA President Rahn K. Bailey, MD convened experts to make recommendations to address this crisis.

To explore the issues that lead to higher rates of disease and poorer outcomes among African Americans, the NMA convened a Consensus Panel. The Consensus Panel was co-chaired by two of the nation’s leading hepatologists; Charles Howell, MD, Director of Hepatology Research at the University of Maryland and Andrew Muir, MD, Director of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research at Duke Clinical Research Institute.
The rationale:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time test for HCV. One in 30 baby boomers – the generation born from 1945 through 1965 – has been infected with HCV, and most don’t know it. The panel supports these guidelines but recommends increased screening of HCV; in all at risk populations.
Dr. Andrew Muir explains, “Hepatitis C has the potential to devastate the African American community in the next 10 to 20 years.
It is a quiet infection until the very late stages,and so it is critical that all patients, particularly African American patients, get screened for HCV before symptoms develop.
There are now treatments that can cure HCV and prevent the complications. We have the ability to prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer from HCV, but we first have to find the patients living with this infection.”
NMA President Dr. Michael LeNoir, states, “The National Medical Association’s Hepatitis C Consensus Paper is just another step in our process to address the impact of Hepatitis C in all communities with an emphasis on minority populations. The NMA is more committed than ever to the implementation of the Hepatitis C action plan. Our organization will step up the effort to educate our communities and our providers about the potential dangers of HCV infection.”
The National Medical Association’s Hepatitis C Consensus Panel’s findings and recommendations include but are not limited to the following:
• There is a need for increased HCV awareness.
• There is a need to accelerate current efforts to improve accuracy of HCV prevalence and incidence data which could lead to greater numbers of HCV-infected people entering into treatment.
• There is a need to reduce or eliminate under-diagnosis of HCV. The Consensus Panel recommends that physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals bring HCV screening out of their offices and into nontraditional settings where high-need populations reside, rather than waiting for these populations to seek treatment.
• There is a need to provide training on HCV to current and future healthcare providers.
• There is a need for greater inclusion of African Americans in clinical trials.
There is a need for increased access to care and treatment for HCV-infected people.
• There is a need to address Hepatitis C in the criminal justice population. The Consensus panel recommendations include: mandatory HCV screening for all people in jails or prison upon entry.
• There is a need for increased monitoring of outcomes of HCV screening. The Consensus Panel recommends that medical professionals utilize electronic medical records to track and monitor the outcomes of African Americans infected by HCV.
• There is a need to analyze and apply new treatment and treatment approaches.
• There is a need to address Gender and HCV. The Consensus Panel recommends that more researchers disaggregate their work by gender so that the unique needs of both African American males and females can be characterized.