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Program would slash incidence of liver disease by spending $11.3 billion on treatment, testing, and education.
The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, announced yesterday, aims to eliminate hepatitis C from the United States by creating a nationwide program to fight the disease. If funded by Congress, the 5-year, $11.3 billion program would expand testing, broaden access to powerful antiviral drugs, and boost awareness.
“I can’t really recall a circumstance quite like this, where we have the chance to do something this groundbreaking, so we just have to figure out how to make it work,” Francis Collins, onetime science adviser to President Joe Biden and former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said in an interview with JAMA, which also published an editorial co-authored by Collins advocating the proposed program.
“The field has been waiting for this for a long time,” says transplant hepatologist David Kaplan of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Eliminating the disease “is possible and feasible,” he says, noting that other countries are on their way to meeting that goal. But that doesn’t mean the effort will be easy, adds pediatric hepatologist James Squires of the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “It will be a challenge. There’s never been an eradication of an infectious virus without a vaccine.”