Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are significant global health concerns, causing acute and chronic infections that lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver transplantation, and liver-related deaths. The impact of these infections extends beyond global health, posing economic burdens as well. A report published in September 2023 in the journal Lancet Public Health used estimates from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study to explore the changes in the magnitude of HBV-related and HCV-related diseases, observing some decreases in related illnesses between 2010–2019. GlobalData epidemiologists expect that to reach the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) goal of elimination by 2030, more intensive and coordinated interventions will be required across the European continent.

HBV and HCV infections are responsible for substantial morbidity and mortality worldwide. They affect the liver and can lead to serious complications. Both viruses can be transmitted through several routes, including contact with infected blood, sexual contact, and from mother to child during childbirth.

Various effective interventions exist, including universal HBV immunisation programs, screening for HBV and HCV, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, promotion of safe injection practices, stringent infection control programs, and anti-viral treatments for infected individuals. In recent years, direct-acting anti-viral treatments for HCV have revolutionised the approach to managing the virus. These treatments have enabled public health organizations to target the worldwide elimination of HCV’s burden.

The Lancet Public Health report estimated partial decreases in some HBV-related and HCV-related diseases between 2010 and 2019; however, HBV-related and HCV-related diseases are still associated with a high burden. From 2010 to 2019, the age-standardised incidence and mortality rates for acute hepatitis B have decreased by 22.14% and 33.27%, respectively. However, HBV-related cirrhosis and liver cancer remain significant health challenges. While the incidence and mortality rates for HCV have decreased, the burden of HCV-related liver cancer increased from 2010 to 2019. This highlights the need for continued efforts in prevention and treatment. According to GlobalData’s forecast, across the five major European (5EU) markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK), there are estimated to be approximately 190,000 and 530,000 diagnosed prevalent cases of liver cirrhosis caused by chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C, respectively, in 2023.

Eliminating HBV and HCV by 2030 is an ambitious goal that requires coordinated efforts. Only a few European countries were considered on track for this target in 2018. Insufficient funding has been a major barrier to achieving elimination. Hepatitis prevention, screening, and treatment programs receive less funding than programs combatting other infectious diseases. To achieve the 2030 elimination targets, countries need to define, implement, and fund their sustainable elimination programs. The Covid-19 pandemic has posed challenges to hepatitis elimination efforts but has also offered opportunities, such as investments in surveillance and reporting systems, which can be leveraged for hepatitis B and C control.

While progress has been made in reducing incidence and mortality rates, the road to elimination remains challenging due to insufficient funding and other barriers. To achieve the goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030, concerted efforts, increased funding, and innovative strategies are required. Building on the lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic response, we have the tools and knowledge needed to tackle these viral infections and save lives across Europe.

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